Coffee is energy and inspiration in liquid form and a potent endurance-feeding fusion of focus and stimulus that feeds our muse in many ways. That’s why we think it’s the go-to necessity for almost anything on our calendars. Still, there’s one daily activity that coffee devotees still aren’t sure should come with a cup, and we hear the question all the time:
Is it okay to mix coffee with exercise?
Grab your travel mug. Coffee is not only an acceptable part of a daily exercise routine, it can actually help you take your body where you want it to go. Here are six ways it boosts your burn:
- Coffee accelerates athletic performance. Researchers have identified a connection between drinking coffee and increased physical performance, and their studies have shown that a little caffeine before our workouts can enhance both their intensity and duration.
- Coffee lessens pain. We know… no pain, no gain. But here’s the other side of that coin—by reducing pain, or at least our perception of it, coffee is actually raising our pain threshold, which means we can lift more and run farther before screaming muscles beg us to stop.
- Coffee enhances circulation. Japanese scientists found that drinking a five-ounce cup of caffeinated coffee gave test subjects a fairly hefty 30% bump in blood flow through their bodies’ smaller blood vessels. That kind of lift delivers a lot more oxygen to our muscles, which fuels a harder workout.
- Coffee kills fat. When we drink it before exercise, our bodies respond to its caffeine content in two ways: First, it boosts our metabolism, which helps us use more calories. But it also makes us burn fat cells for energy instead of the glycogen stored in our muscles, which is what usually provides our workout power. That helps us reach our maximum fat-burning potential more easily.
- Coffee preps us for later. Speaking of glycogen, drinking coffee after we exercise puts more of it in our muscles for next time—scientists recorded a 66% greater rise in muscle glycogen levels four hours after a big workout in people who drank a post-exercise cup or two. That’s energy our muscles are storing up for our next body pump session, and having more of it means more strength and endurance for a more productive workout when we get there.
- Coffee keeps the fires going. Enjoying some caffeine before your workout will help your body continue to consume extra calories after it’s done. A study conducted in Spain found that ingesting 300 milligrams of caffeine per 150 pounds of body weight—the amount in a 12-ounce coffee—caused athletes to burn 15% more calories during the three hours following exercise.
These are all great reasons to enjoy a little coffee before we hit the gym. The secret is moderation. No one thinks it’s a good idea to load up on double espressos on the way to our workouts. But a cup savored in balanced moderation may be just what the trainer ordered.