Wake up, brush the sleep out of your eyes, down that first cup of coffee then hit the pavement for a morning run. If this sounds like you, you are part of the coffee and cardio club.
Whether you do this out of habit or because you know how that jolt of caffeine can benefit your workout, there are many athletes in a similar regiment.
Benefits of Coffee Before a Run
✓ It “moves things along” so you don’t have a crappy run
29% of people report that, after a cup of coffee, they have a bowel movement. If you are a runner reading this, you know how important this is.
The last thing a runner wants is to be deep into the long run, in the middle of nowhere on a rural road, and the urge to poop comes.
✓ Excellent Pre-Workout
Forget the fancy pre-workouts sold in stores. Coffee has caffeine which is the most commonly used active ingredient in pre-workouts. In fact, two-third of Olympic athletes use caffeine before working out or competing. Caffeine is easy to access, comes in a variety of forms and is inexpensive.
Your average cup of coffee has approximately 95 milligrams of caffeine. In contrast, many packaged pre-workouts contain between three and five times that amount, which is more than most people need to get the kick in performance they are craving. For your average recreational athlete, the amount of caffeine in the pre-workouts may be overkill.
✓ Improved Mental Alertness
Especially if you roll right out of bed and into reflective gear for your morning run, it’s a good idea to have at least a little java to increase your mental alertness. Some runners joke that they love to get their run going before their legs realize they are awake.
While this makes us all chuckle the fact is that distracted driving is on the rise. People are driving while texting or using their phones in other ways with greater frequency and, as runners, we always need to be alert to possible impending danger. That 95 mg of coffee could be just the edge you need to avert a tragedy.
✓ Decreased Perception of Exerted Effort
Since caffeine has been shown to decreased perceived effort, the run feels easier. As with any workout, if it feels easy you are more likely to continue the workout longer and/or to work harder.
Of course, running further or longer is not always necessary, but if a simple Cup of Joe can make it feel easier, why not?
✓ Enhances Endurance and Speed
Does coffee make you faster? There is anecdotal evidence that caffeine pre-race can slightly improve performance. In one small study of recreational runners, performance improved by about 1%.
Although a small margin of improvement, it is one achieved with no true extra effort on behalf of the participants. Who doesn’t want to run faster without working harder? Even just a little bit?
Is One Cup Enough?
For most recreational runners, one cup of coffee is enough for the runner to benefit. If you’re looking for the type of impact that a pre-workout would give, however, you need to consume more than a cup. The best pre-race dose of caffeine for you may vary.
Some sources state that consuming 2-3mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight should yield results. These are the doses that athletes who consume caffeine for a true competitive edge start with. This would equal approximately 3 cups of coffee for a 150 pound athlete.
Drawbacks to Coffee Pre-Run
Coffee before a run can cause gastrointestinal distress. Some runners find it causes diarrhea or other stomach issues, especially if the runner adds milk or creamer to the coffee.
Coffee is also a known diuretic which can add to the already prominent race day jitter urinary frequency. If racing a 5K, the need to pee isn’t such a big deal. However, if participating in a longer run, it can pose a bigger problem.
Coffee and other caffeine sources can make some people jittery, if they aren’t used to consuming caffeine.
It is important to note also that people get acclimated to caffeine. What this means is that it may take more and more coffee to get the same jolt of energy. Some researchers state that from a performance perspective, this is not necessarily true as it pertains to the workout advantages.
In other words, if you feel sleepy and drink a third cup of coffee, there won’t be much impact in your daily routine. If you add a third cup every day, you will soon find yourself needing three cups instead of two.
But for purposes of improving your first workout of the day, the same one cup should yield the same result as it did in the beginning.
It’s Not Just For Running!
It stands to reason that coffee can impact other types of workouts. One study illustrated that after just one cup of coffee, study participants could pedal longer than those who had not been given coffee.
Many athletes take caffeine prior to weight training for that boost in performance. Studies show that caffeine pre-weights can help the person to lift heavier weights over a longer period of time.
You have probably heard people say, “I run on coffee,” but should you? Technically speaking, running “on coffee” is certainly not harmful. It’s perfectly safe to have a cup of coffee or two then go for your morning run, or before any type of workout, as long as it does not distress your stomach or result in headaches. In fact, coffee and cardio seem to have benefits.
As long as you are taking in a reasonable amount of caffeine, that cup of coffee can actually keep you safe by increasing your alertness.
It can help you have a morning poop which can make your morning workout run more smoothly without interruption. In addition, morning coffee can help you perceive the workout as easier and less stressful, perhaps resulting in a stronger effort.
Besides the fact that drinking the aromatic brown liquid is just an amazing way to start the day, studies seem to back that combining coffee and cardio just might help you!