Whether you like to exercise first thing in the morning or you find time to sweat later in the evening, you probably feel kind of groggy before your workout sometimes, right? For me, when that happens, I usually get myself to the nearest source of caffeine ASAP to give my body a little boost. But when you think about how coffee affects your workout, it seems like the kind of thing that could easily have either a positive or a negative influence. On the one hand, a nice jolt of caffeine seems like it would come in handy for those days when you need a little extra pep in your sneaker-clad steps. But on the other hand, caffeine is a stimulant, and it's important to consider how that affects your body, especially when you're exercising.
Just for a little baseline knowledge, let's be clear on what caffeine really is. According to the University of Michigan's University Health Service, caffeine is a "plant product" found most commonly, of course, in things like coffee, tea, and chocolate, in addition to certain medications. It can act as a stimulant by "exerting an effect on the central nervous system," per the online resource, i.e. that wide-eyed, super awake feeling you get when you drink a lot of coffee.
Once caffeine is in your body, it leads to the production of adrenaline (aka your fight-or-flight hormone), and simultaneously blocks your body's production of adenosine (aka a neurotransmitter your brain usually releases when you're sleepy), per UC Santa Barbara's ScienceLine resource. As a result, you feel really alert, your heart beats faster, your muscles tense up, and you can just, you know, get stuff done.
As for how caffeine affects your ability to work out, Samantha Morrison, a personal trainer and health and wellness expert for Glacier Wellness, says it can have a few perks. "Besides giving you energy, coffee is also an effective bronchodilator, meaning it opens the airways to the lungs," she tells Elite Daily. "This underrated benefit of coffee is due to its high caffeine content, which promotes pulmonary functioning, increases respiratory muscle strength, and prolongs time to diaphragmatic fatigue," all of which Morrison says can help to bring your workout to the next level.
Katia Pryce, wellness expert and founder of the fitness class DanceBody, is also a proponent of sipping a cup of joe before a workout. "Coffee stimulates your central nervous system, causing you to be more alert in general," she tells Elite Daily. "Although coffee affects everyone a little bit differently, overall, coffee has been found to improve an athlete's ability to train harder and longer. Mentally you are more alert, and physically your entire system is sparked up, primed, and ready for activity."
One thing to keep in mind, though, says Beth Witherspoon, MPH, RDN, registered dietitian consultant for Community Coffee Company, is that everyone metabolizes caffeine at different rates, so it's important to pay attention to how you're feeling during your workout. According to Witherspoon, you shouldn't feel “shaky” or “overstimulated” by the amount of caffeine you consume, as this will not help your workout performance. Overall, she tells Elite Daily, if you have any doubts, it's always a good idea to double-check what's right for your body with your own doctor.
If you come to decide that caffeine doesn't really suit your body before a workout, but you still want a little something to give you a boost of energy, Pryce suggests treating yourself to something sugary before getting your sweat on. "A gummy is a great thing to give your body a quick wake-up call right before a workout to push you through," she explains. Alternatively, you could also eat some fruit before your workout, or a little yogurt, or even some nut butter on toast. IMO, coffee would go so well with that last snack — hey, there's always decaf if you're not into the caffeinated stuff, right?