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Coffee Lovers Rejoice! That Cup Might Actually Help Your Workouts

Woman drinking coffee
Timing is everything when it comes to coffee and exercise.

by Catherine Santino

Coffee is an excellent prerequisite for almost any activity, especially for those of us who tend to be crabby pre-caffeine. But what about when you're headed to a workout?

There's been much debate in the fitness community about coffee and exercise; specifically, whether or not a morning cup of joe is harmful or helpful to a successful gym session. Luckily, there's been a lot of evidence to show that a cup of coffee might actually be beneficial to your fitness routine.

Just the Boost You Need

If you're already a coffee drinker, your daily fix could be giving you just the boost you need in the gym. Heidi Skolnik, M.S., a sports nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Conditioning, Inc. tells The Daily Burn that because caffeine acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system, it can "increase the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, which effects pain receptors and mood."

Timing Is Everything

But in order to make sure you're not sabotaging your workout, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to caffeine intake.

First and foremost, timing is everything when it comes to coffee and exercise. It may seem like that first sip of coffee in the morning gives us an immediate boost, but in actuality, caffeine reaches its peak effects between 30 and 75 minutes after consumption.

Limiting the amount of caffeine consumed before a workout has also proven to be an important piece of the puzzle. Dr. Mike Roussell tells Shape that he has found 300mg of coffee to be the most he can tolerate prior to a workout, but that each individual should test their own limits and do what's best for their body. This includes whether or not you can tolerate drinking coffee before an evening workout; some people can drink caffeine well into the evening and have no problem sleeping, but others might be up all night, rendering the temporary energy boost somewhat worthless.

How Do You Take Your Coffee?

How you take your coffee has also proven to have an effect on your workout. Skolnik points out that adding a splash of milk (either dairy or non-dairy) can provide a boost of protein and carbs that black coffee wouldn't.

If you're worrying that coffee might lead to dehydration (something that's never good, but especially not before a workout), Dr. Roussell says you can rest easy. "Studies looking at caffeine use in high-temperature exercise situations show that it does not lead to dehydration or subsequent decreases in performance," he tells Shape.

Coffee and exercise might not seem like a match made in heaven; but when done right, it can give your workout just the boost you've been looking for.

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.