By Gabe Sanders Ph.D., NSCA-CSCS
If you are a coffee drinker, especially a morning coffee drinker, there is nothing better than that first cup of coffee to get your day started. The aroma, the idea of a fresh new start to your day can have a euphoric feeling and it helps millions (maybe billions) of people around the world start their day on the right foot, so to speak. Just think, if coffee can impact the start of your day with a boost, perhaps it can do wonders for your exercise?
Coffee caffeine is considered an ergogenic aid
Believe it or not, caffeine…yes, the same caffeine in coffee, is considered an ergogenic aid in the sports nutrition world. The definition of an ergogenic aid is a substance or device to enhance energy production and performance. For ergogenic aids to be legal, they must be safe and effective.
In fact, the research to investigate caffeine and coffee as an ergogenic aid shows it is safe and effective to enhance exercise performance. The performance enhancements are not staggering and will not result in a non-athlete becoming a professional athlete, but it helps boost energy, or it provides you with the feeling of more energy.
Caffeine-matched coffee improves aerobic exercise performance
A study by Hodgson et al. (2013) found that caffeine and caffeine-matched coffee can boost energy and improve aerobic exercise performance when consumed one hour prior to exercise. Much of the research since the 2013 article, also supports the concept that coffee is an effective ergogenic aid.
The previous research mostly investigated aerobic exercise, but it is likely your strength training session can be enhanced as a result of coffee intake as well. Therefore, as you think about your next exercise session, perhaps try a good 16-20 ounce cup of coffee (assuming you drink it with no sugar) about 60 minutes before your session. The only caveat is to avoid drinking coffee or caffeine immediately prior to exercise as it may cause an upset stomach or gastric discomfort.
Hodgson, Adrian B., Rebecca K. Randell, and Asker E. Jeukendrup. “The metabolic and performance effects of caffeine compared to coffee during endurance exercise.” PloS one 8.4 (2013): e59561.
Guest, Nanci S., et al. “International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 18.1 (2021): 1-37.
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