A common question for runners is “should I drink coffee before running?“.
It’s undeniable that coffee, and specifically the caffeine it contains, can provide a performance-enhancing boost. Athletes across the world are aware of this, and it’s backed up by hundreds of studies.
But is coffee – or any form of caffeine really – right for you?
In this post, we’ll dive into . . .
- how coffee helps your running performance,
- the side effects of drinking coffee before running,
- how to account for your caffeine tolerance when making your coffee,
- share some best practices for drinking coffee before a morning run!
Let’s jump in!
Deep Grind – What Is Caffeine, and How Does It Work?
Caffeine is a naturally-occurring substance that is found in the seeds, leaves, and nuts of various plants – including coffee beans and tea leaves.
Caffeine is considered a stimulant drug – in short, this means that it speeds up the signals sent from your brain to your body.
Caffeine works primarily by binding itself to nerve receptors in our brain, often taking the place of adenosine – the brain chemical which makes us drowsy and want to sleep.
This causes our nerve cells to speed up, and this increase in activity signals to our bodies to produce adrenaline.
More adrenaline, as you can imagine, makes us more pumped!
Thanks to the adrenaline, your heart beats faster, your airway opens up, blood flow to your muscles increases, the liver releases sugar to the bloodstream, and your muscles tighten up.
In other words…
coffee = caffeine = adrenaline release = ready for action!
How To Drink Coffee Before A Run For Maximum Results
It’s been shown that caffeine helps boost performance – both in high-intensity sprint-style athletes and endurance athletes.
But – there are certain things to consider in order to optimise your morning coffee-fueled run.
Let’s check them out!
Time Your Coffee Right
You want to take your caffeine hit around 45 minutes before you start your run workout, according to this study – you have to wait some time for the coffee to hit your bloodstream, but if you wait too long after drinking caffeine before running or the effects will begin to fade.
How Much Coffee To Drink Before a Run
Studies have shown that 3-5mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight is optimal to see the performance benefits while running.
So if you weigh in at 75kg, you want to aim for around 300 – 450mg of caffeine.
One Starbucks espresso shot has about 75 milligrams of caffeine (ref).
Whereas a regular cup of the store’s Pike Place medium-roast coffee has 155 mg.
in other words, a couple of cups of coffee is suitable for a 75kg person.
Don’t Drink Too Much
While it’s easy to get carried away with your cup of morning joe, be aware that higher doses do not lead to a performance improvement.
Instead, you’ll experience side effects such as dizziness, anxiety, heart palpitations, and inability to sleep well.
In other words, exercise control when preparing your coffee before a run!
Everyone’s Caffeine Tolerance Is Different
Something worth bearing in mind, especially if you’re a coffee rookie, is that everyone has different tolerances to caffeine.
If you’ve been drinking it daily for a while, you can expect to build up a resistance to small doses – and may need stronger stuff to wake you up.
Similarly, remember that your build affects your tolerance.
A triple espresso will have different effects on a 300-pound gorilla than it will a 100-pound grandma!
Coffee Doesn’t Seem To Dehydrate You
It’s common wisdom that coffee leaves you dehydrated – new studies however reckon that’s not true, and have shown there’s little evidence to support the claim.
If you are using coffee to boost your morning run, it’s worth remembering that even if the coffee doesn’t dehydrate you, the run will.
Replenish those fluids lost with water, and feel free to add electrolytes.
Just Tasting It Works
Recent studies in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism have shown that the effects of caffeine can begin as soon as it enters your mouth.
Taste receptors signal to your brain that caffeine is coming, so the effects begin immediately.
This was proven in studies where the participants swilled a caffeine drink in their mouth before spitting it out.
Pre-Run Caffeine Can Even Help Your Post-Run Recovery
A study of participants in a 15k race showed that those who drank caffeine before the run had an enhanced anti-inflammatory response after the run – suggesting that caffeine can lower inflammation and help you recover faster.
How To Take Your Coffee Before a Run
Based on the research, my recommendation is as follows:
Take a cup of strong coffee 45 minutes before you go for a run.
Adjust the strength and quantity based on your tolerance and experience; if in doubt, start with a small, weaker coffee.
If you’re going running first thing in the morning, take the coffee the minute you wake up.
I recommend supplementing your coffee with some food to fuel your run – a banana is perhaps the perfect pre-morning run snack (read more on what to eat before running)
How Do You Take It?
Everyone has their coffee rituals.
If I’m not in a hurry (which is unusual) I’ll get out my Aeropress and take time making the perfect cup.
How do you take your coffee?
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