One of the most common questions echoed around the gym floor is when to drink coffee before workout sessions.
As a potent stimulant, caffeine can make or break the quality of your workouts. Time it right and you’ll feel invincible. The iron will feel light and you’ll crush your PRs like a supercharged freak.
Get it wrong though and you’ll feel sluggish as you crash into the post-caffeine hit slump. Or even worse – it kicks in after you’ve finished.
In this article we tell you when to drink coffee before your workout and why caffeine is a great tool to get the very best from your exercise program.
Why Drink Coffee Before a Workout?
Coffee is a great natural health food. It is high in antioxidants and low in calories.
Otherwise lovingly known as java or Joe, coffee provides zero fat and sugar, but contributes a modest amount of potassium, vitamin B, magnesium and pantothenic acid to your diet.
It’s been found to reduce disease and promote overall health and wellness.
Probably the most well known nutrient in your morning coffee is caffeine – a natural stimulant with the ability to boost physical and mental performance.
And with more than 50% of US adults choosing to drink this dark and intense beverage each day, you can see why it’s the energy ‘pick me up’ of choice for many people.
What Are The Benefits of Caffeine?
Caffeine is one of the most studied nutrients out there when it comes to athletic performance.
In fact, it’s so well-studied that even expert collaborative bodies such as the International Society of Sports Nutrition  confirm that the stimulant is “effective for enhancing sport performance in trained athletes”.
Caffeine has been shown to provide a number of benefits when it comes to athletic performance.
This is largely due to the fact that caffeine has a direct effect on the molecules that receive chemical signals in your body called adenosine receptors .
When activated, these receptors make you feel relaxed and sleepy. But when inhibited by a surge of caffeine they switch off, leaving you feeling full of energy.
Caffeine is essentially a central nervous system stimulant
Because it acts on your brain and nervous system, caffeine has a direct effect on autonomic functions such as brain function, blood flow, heart rate and cognition.
And that’s a good thing if you’re ready to hit the gym.
- Caffeine can increase tolerance at high intensity, helping to improve time to fatigue.
- Sustains maximal endurance, strength, power and workload.
- Improves focus, clarity, motor skills and mood.
- Provides a huge energy boost which decreases relative perceived exertion.
- Decreases pain by stimulating release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Key Point: It is the nervous system stimulant caffeine that enhances performance, not coffee itself.
When to Drink Coffee Before Workout Sessions?
The question isn’t so much about whether or not you should boost your workouts with caffeine or not; it’s more about when you should take it for maximum effect.
If you choose to skip caffeine as a pre workout you’ll really miss out.
Large review studies suggest that caffeine enters your bloodstream within 30 minutes. This is because it has a high bioavailability and can enter the gastrointestinal system relatively quickly .
However, research looking at ‘caffeine timing’ shows that it may take a little longer for peak effects to take place…
60 minutes before exercise peak performance in habitual and nonusers
In a study published in Applied Physiology  both regular coffee drinkers and non-drinkers ingested 5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight before an intense workout.
They were asked to ingest the beverage either 1, 3 or 6 hours before the ‘time-to-exhaustion’ exercise test and researchers watched what happened to their performance.
Both the 1 and 3 hour time trials significantly improved, whereas there was no difference in the 6 hour test.
Interestingly, the effects of caffeine were both greater and longer in the non-user group than in the habitual coffee drinker group.
Timing could vary absorption based on caffeine source
According to one study published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior , while coffee is often thought to be the main caffeinated pre workout, it isn’t the only source you should consider.
In this study, a group of trained athletes were asked to ingest 400 mg of either coffee, sugar free soda or via 2 caffeine capsules.
They then provided a saliva sample 30, 60, 90, 120, 180 and 240 minutes after they’d finished.
There was a significant difference between maximal absorption time and source.
- Coffee absorption peaked at 42 minutes
- Cola maxed out at 39 minutes
- Caffeine pills took much longer at 67 minutes
This shows that to get the true potential of coffee you’d be looking at ingesting it between at around 45 minutes before your workout.
Timing can play an important role in your overall athletic performance
Every person has a tolerance to caffeine.
You probably know one of those people that seems to sip on tea or coffee all day without any effects, but also those with lower tolerance that are climbing the walls after a coffee or two.
If you don’t drink coffee that often you might find that it kicks in sooner. Drink it on a regular basis and you’ll need a higher dose and a longer time period to reap the reward.
Key Point: Drinking coffee 45-60 minutes before your workout seems to be most effective, although individual tolerance to caffeine may effect this.
Coffee Isn’t The Most Performance Enhancing Source of Caffeine
The average eight-ounce cup of coffee contains around 80-100 mg of caffeine. A cup of green tea contains only 45 mg of the stimulant.
The current consensus is that you should aim for around 3-6 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight to maximize exercise performance effects.
So an 80 kg person would need between 240 -480 mg of caffeine to punch a hole in their workouts.
That’s a lot of coffee!
Go for caffeine anhydrous to really optimize your performance
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition coffee isn’t the most performance-enhancing source of the stimulant caffeine.
Anhydrous caffeine is a pure state product, specifically made to give you the most direct an targeted dose of caffeine prior to your workout.
When it comes to ramping up your workout, this potent and explosive pre workout ingredient is your number one.
Caffeine exerts a greater ergogenic effect when consumed in an anhydrous state as compared to coffee .
4 Gauge: A Better Option Than Coffee
When it comes to maximizing your workouts there’s more to your supplement stack than just coffee.
Pre workout supplements like 4 Gauge harness the power of caffeine anhydrous, but treat you to the added bonus of insane muscle pumps, targeted focus and unrelenting motivation too.
With 150 mg of caffeine anhydrous per serving, 4 Gauge supercharges your workouts while providing a number of additional performance benefits.
Take one or two scoops 30 minutes prior to your workout to really optimize results.
Smash Your Workouts With 4 Gauge
4 Gauge is an exhaustively researched, all-natural pre workout designed to rip the lid off your gym sessions, sports games or workouts.
Packed with performance-enhancing nutrients such as caffeine, L-theanine and creatine, 4 Gauge will take your training to a completely new level.
Smash your workouts – feel your nervous system firing on all cylinders
Cell-splitting muscle pumps – harness the power of vasodilation and deliver more nutrients to your muscle cells
Determination like never before – feel unparalleled focus and motivation
Relentless energy – train for longer without fatigue
- Goldstein, ER et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010;7(1): 5
- Ribiero, JA et al. Caffeine and Adenosine. J Alzheimers Dis. 2010; 20 Suppl 1: S3-15
- Ganio, MS et al. Effect of caffeine on sport-specific endurance performance: a systematic review. J Strength Cond Res. 2009; 23(1): 315-324
- Bell, DG et al. Exercise endurance 1, 3, and 6 h after caffeine ingestion in caffeine users and nonusers. J Appl Physiol. 2002; 93(4): 1227-34
- Liquori, A et al. Absorption and subjective effects of caffeine from coffee, cola and capsules. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1997; 58(3): 721-6