Everyone uses different methods to fuel up before a workout. Some rely on food and water alone to energize them for some intense cardio and/or strength training. Some rely on caffeine to give them the energy they need to pump through the moves. Are there benefits to caffeinating before working out? Are there risks? Let’s find out.
Caffeine, even in small amounts, is a stimulant. Something as simple as drinking a cup of coffee before you hit the gym has the potential to give you a major, and completely safe, performance boost. Because caffeine stimulates your central nervous system, you’ll find it much easier to stretch and work your muscles. And the effect won’t wear off while you’re still training the way carbs might, as long as you’re careful about timing (see below).
Caffeine decreases your symptoms of fatigue, which can make it easier to push through tough workouts without completely burning out in the middle of a set. Basically, you’ll just feel less tired. You should still make sure not to push yourself too far, but you’ll feel much more capable.
WHAT TO EAT/DRINK BEFORE A WORKOUT
RECOMMENDED DOSAGE AND TIMING
You don’t get any extra benefit out of drinking more than 200mg worth of caffeine, so that’s the absolute highest you would need to go. As a reference, a tall coffee from Starbucks is about 250mg. The lowest dose of caffeine you will probably need to feel any effects is around 20mg. That’s about one ounce of dark chocolate, or an ounce of regular coffee (not much). Try caffeinating one to two hours before training for maximum effect.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
Too much of anything isn’t good for you, even caffeine. Don’t take, eat or drink too much of it, unless you want to deal with a racing heart that won’t slow down (not good). You don’t need much more than 200mg per day. It stays in your system long enough that anything more than that doesn’t do you any good. Too much caffeine can also lead to problems sleeping. If you’re not careful, you could become addicted to it, which puts you at risk for poor fitness performance if you don’t have access to it for whatever reason.
Caffeine is technically a drug, but it’s legal because, in average doses, it’s not going to hurt you. You don’t have to caffeinate before you exercise, but it can boost your performance if you’re having a rough morning and need something to help you get through it. As long as you don’t overdo it, you might be happy with the results.