Lace up your sneakers. Shake your muscles. And down a cup of coffee. For some runners, pre-run coffee is a non-negotiable part of the routine—a ritual so entrenched in the norm that a workout simply wouldn’t feel right without it.
If that’s you, good news: Drinking coffee before a run can provide some very real performance benefits, including decreased fatigue and a reduction in perceived exertion, among other benefits. But it’s not one size fits all. Depending on how much coffee you drink and your individual sensitivity to caffeine, drinking a triple espresso before hitting the trails can do more harm than good.
Friendship Him, MS, RD, a New York-based sports dietitian who works with runners, says clients often ask for coffee before running, asking questions like, “Should I drink coffee?” How much coffee should I drink? How much is too much? When should I drink it?
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Here she helps answer those questions, answering everything you need to know about coffee before you run, including the pros, cons and expert tips for incorporating it into your routine.
The benefits of coffee before running
Most pre-race coffee benefits are specific to caffeinated coffee. “Caffeine is a legal ergogenic aid,” Lui explains. This means it can improve your performance, according to research.
A exam published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism noted that for endurance running specifically, caffeine can reduce perceived exertion, fatigue, and pain while boosting alertness and alertness.
According to a paper 2021 published by the International Society of Sports Nutrition. That said, “low to moderate benefits from caffeine consumption” are seen in sprinting, muscle endurance, and muscle strength, among many other athletic activities, according to the article.
Another effect of coffee: it can make you poop. Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee can trigger a reflex that leads to bowel movements, Lui explains. That can be a pro or a con of coffee, depending on the context, she says. For example, if you’re trying to empty your bowels before you leave the house (and the convenience of a nearby restroom), coffee can help. But if you gulp down some coffee and start running before you’re number two, well, things could quickly turn against you.
Another benefit of coffee is that it contains antioxidants, which are helpful for everyone, but especially athletes, because antioxidants work to reduce the body’s inflammatory response to exercise, says Rachel Gargano, MS, RD , CSSD, dietitian specializing in sports nutrition. with Best nutritional coaching.
Cons of coffee before running
When it comes to pre-run coffee, more isn’t always better. Depending on your caffeine tolerance, consuming too much can increase your risk of anxiety and heart rate abnormalities while decreasing your ability to perform fine motor movements, Lui explains. You might start sweating, have clammy palms and feel jittery, she adds.
Also, as mentioned, coffee can trigger a bathroom break, which can be a downside in some circumstances.
Also, consuming a lot of caffeine late in the day can disrupt your sleep. That’s because the average half-life of caffeine is about five hours, Lui says, which means it takes about five hours for half of the amount of caffeine you ingested to dissipate from your body. system. Say, for example, you drink a cup of coffee with 200 milligrams of caffeine 3 p.m. before your afternoon run. At 8 p.m., 100 milligrams of caffeine will still remain in your body. Depending on your caffeine sensitivity, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep that night, Lui says.
How to determine how much coffee to have before a race and when to take it
You wonder how a lot coffee you should drink before a race? There is no set amount for everyone, as people’s tolerance to caffeine depends on a number of factors, including genetics, how long you consume caffeine, and how much you usually consume daily.
That said, the general performance recommendation is three to six milligrams of caffeine per kilogram (kg) of body weight, Lui and Gargano say. So for an athlete who weighs 68 kg (150 pounds), that would be about 200 to 400 milligrams, or the equivalent of about two to five cups of coffee.
If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you’ll probably want to err on the lower end of that spectrum, says Gargano. But “if you’re already consuming a decent amount of caffeine daily, you probably need a larger dose to be effective,” she adds.
Keep in mind: “Excess caffeine exists,” says Lui. You may want to stick to 400mg or less, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which warns that excessive caffeine consumption can lead to problems such as upset stomach, insomnia, anxiety and rapid heart rate, among other side effects. Additionally, when people quickly take in a very large volume of caffeine (think: around 1,200 milligrams), it can cause toxic effects, including seizures, according to the FDA.
Figuring out the ideal amount of pre-brewed coffee for you is basically a matter of “trial and error,” Lui explains.
If you find you’re ultra-sensitive to caffeine in a negative way, then Gargano doesn’t advise making coffee a part of your running routine, as the harms likely outweigh the potential benefits.
But, if you seem to tolerate caffeine well, the general recommendation is to take it about 30 to 60 minutes before you go for a run, says Gargano. You’ll notice the effects of caffeine as quickly as 15 minutes after consuming it, but its full influence peaks about an hour later, says Lui, who suggests timing your coffee intake before the drip so you get “that a little help when you need it most.”
In a pre-race situation, if you’re someone who adds a healthy dose of real sugar to your coffee, you might want to consume it closer to your race, within about 30 minutes, Gargano says. That’s because “the sugar is going to get to the system pretty quickly, and to take advantage of the high blood sugar levels, which is beneficial when you’re exercising, you’d want to get a little closer” to the start of your training, she explains.
Note that if you’re running for a long time, like more than two hours, that might mean taking caffeine during your run, Gargano says. In this case, you will probably opt for a chewing gum or gel containing caffeine.
The basics of drinking coffee before running
Drinking coffee before a run may provide legitimate benefits, including increased alertness and reduced fatigue, pain and perceived exertion, but it’s not beneficial for everyone. It takes a bit of practice to figure out how much coffee (if any) is a worthy part of your pre-race ritual, and then also figure out the best dose and time for you.
No matter how or when you take your coffee, both experts recommend pairing it with a certain type of food to ensure you have the energy you need to perform well in your workout. “Coffee itself doesn’t provide energy because it’s not a calorie-based food,” Lui explains.
Gargano recommends having an easily digestible carbohydrate snack within 30-45 minutes of starting a run. According to Lui, good pre-race snack options include a slice of toast with a banana and honey, a banana with peanut butter, or applesauce for those who have trouble tolerating solid foods before the race. ‘exercise.
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