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Is Coffee The Best Pre Workout

I love a good gym sesh. Whether it's an outdoor run or moving mass through space and time, exercise is a sure-fire way to have a good day!

Without really connecting the two, my morning routine has always started with a big mug of coffee, then followed by either hitting the gym or getting out for a run. As I go deeper down the rabbithole of the world of fitness, I wound up considering the myriad of pre-workout options. That got me thinking, can coffee be used as a preworkout?

Being both a massive coffee nerd and gym geek, I hit the books.

What is Pre-Workout?

First things first what even is a pre-workout?

Pre-workout is a supplement that you take before a workout that helps you to perform well during your workout.

Whether it's to help give you more energy, or just that extra bit of motivation to get you going in the first place, pre-workout is the thing to reach for.

Usually, pre-workout comes in either powder or capsules. You'll find that taking them between 30 minutes to an hour before your workout will give them time to kick in.

So that explains how to use it, but what's in this stuff? Especially considering it can supposedly do so much.

Well, there really isn't any defined recipe for pre-workout. Different brands can vary wildly.

Often, pre-workout will contain things such as caffeine, creatine, amino acids, and B vitamins but in varying amounts. If you buy it as a powder, it is certain to contain artificial sweeteners though.

Why Could Coffee Be Used as A Pre-Workout?

How much caffeine is in coffee?

You will just about always be drinking more caffeine with larger cups of coffee,so we need to begin by trying to talk about the same thing.

According to Above Average Coffee, A 12 Oz cup of coffee will usually contain in the region of 120mg of caffeine. If that's been made with instant then the cup will contain somewhere closer to 75mg. A little single shot of espresso (that's 1 Oz) will contain around 63mg of caffeine.

How do our bodies react to caffeine?

Caffeine is a drug that affects your body at the cellular level. It prevents an enzyme called phosphodiesterase from breaking down cAMP. Since cAMP is not being broken down as readily, you will have higher levels of it in your cells.

More cAMP in your cells will cause your heart cells to have more activity as well as more activity in cognitive processing in your brain. More cAMP also promotes muscle glycogen breakdown, leading to more energy for your muscles and even promotes enzymes that break up fat tissue.

What Does This Mean For My Workout?

With caffeine causing your heart to beat faster, you should have more oxygen circulating around your body to help metabolise energy quicker.

Your fat tissue is breaking down more readily to supply more energy.

Your muscles are able to use energy from your food more readily.

Your reaction times will decrease and you will be more focused on your workout.

Do We Get Other Benefits From Coffee?


Two diterpened known as kahweol and cafestrol have been found to lower the risk against type 2 diabetes. Another study has even found that they can be protective against cancer.

Diterpenes can help to produce enzymes that help your body by producing protective antioxidants.


Melanoidins are brown-color molecules found in coffee. They have been found to bring some benefits.

A study found that, melanoidins, as well as diterpenes, can contribute to antioxidant cell protection. They were also found to supporess cancer growth and to top it off, they even help your body's tetoxification system to remove harmful substances.


You can find Trigolened in coffee as well as peas, fenugreek, and oats!

Trigolene has been linked to lower blood glucose and lower blood triglicerides. This can help to protect against obesity-related conditions as well as type 2 diabetes.

Like both diterpenes and melanoidins, trigolene also has antioxidant effects.

How Does All Of This Relate To My Workout?

Working out causes your muscles to grow stronger by creating lots of micro damage, which your body can then heal to make you stronger than before. Repairing your muscles leaves byproducts that can also be harmful to your body.

Antioxidants swoop in and save the day here. They will help to prevent cell damage and remove toxic byproducts from your system. When paired with a healthy balanced diet, a cup of coffee can provide you with an antioxidant boost that can help your body recover faster.

Are There Downsides To Drinking Coffee?

Caffeine is a mild stimulant, so it can also keep you awake. If you suffer from insomnia then coffee won't help! Caffeine will usually take at least 5 hours to stop acting on your syste, but it could take up to 9 hours to stop experiencing its effects. If you find it difficult to sleep at night then if you just can't do without a coffee, best keep it to the mornings.

This wakey-wakey effect of caffeine is not specific to coffee. As most pre-workout mixtures contain caffeine, they will likely also case this. Not to mention preworkout can often contain more caffeine that your typical cup of joe.

Another side effect caffeine can have is the jitters and anxiety. Because caffeine is a stimulant, its effects can intensify anxiety and even cause panic attacks in some rare cases. If you're prone to these symptoms, then caffeine may be best avoided.

Caffeine can also cause a laxitive effect. You might not drop the weights, but you might just drop your guts. If you find that a cup of joe has you running to the bog, then maybe don't chug a mug just before squats.

How Much Coffee is Best Before A Workout?

So there are upsides and downsides to drinking coffee before a gym sesh. How much does it take to hit that sweet spot and take just the right amount?

300-400mg of caffeine per day has been reported to be the safe upper limit.

For comparison, that is:

      3 cups of drip coffee (with 120mg per cup)

      5 cups of instant (with 75mg per cup)

      6 single espresso shots (with 63mg per shot)

3-6mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight is a ballpark rule of thumb to go on. So for someone weighing around 70Kg, then around 210-420mg should do the trick.
That is a pretty wide allowance, and similar to drinking two cup of drip coffee.

Final Thoughts

Preworkout contains caffeine as one of its main ingredients, and of course so does coffee. It makes perfect sense to try out using coffee as a pre-workout. Many people do!

Coffee can work well as a preworkout, and has many benefits that con contribute to your health.

It is absolutely not recommended to gulp down a massive mug of coffee before hitting the gym. That caffeine will take time to begin working in your body. It would be reasonable to expect it to take between 30 minutes to an hour before it kicks in. In some people it can take as long as 90 minutes.

Enjoy your cup of coffee about an hour before your workout. How you drink your coffee is ofcourse up to you. Personally, I like to just drink it black.

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