Can caffeine boost your next workout or should you steer clear? Here’s the truth about caffeine and exercise.
Does caffeine benefit exercise?
Caffeine is known as an ergogenic aid - that is, a substance that can improve athletic performance. And because it is all-natural, caffeine is widely used by athletes and everyday exercise fans. It’s safe, readily-available, and can be tasty too if you drink it in coffee form! As far as sports-supplements go, it’s easy to use and easy on your wallet.
Academics have done a lot of research into caffeine, exercise, and sports performance. The results are clear. Taken as a pre-workout aid, caffeine can improve your workout in several ways. It can sharpen your mental focus and improve your RPE (rate of perceived exertion), so you could workout for longer. It can also extend your endurance, and boost your performance. It seems to be particularly beneficial for endurance exercise (including cardio workouts) and strength or power training (like weight training and lifting).
How should you take caffeine?
Lots of pre-workout drinks and gels contain caffeine. But you don’t need to buy a special supplement to get the benefits of caffeine as an exercise aid. You could take a simple caffeine tablet, a high-strength green tea supplement, matcha green tea, or a simple cup of coffee.
Should anyone avoid caffeine before a workout?
If you are intolerant to caffeine, or if you know it causes you stomach or heart problems, avoid combining caffeine and exercise. The extra stress of your workout could exacerbate the problem. It’s always best to be safe. Don't forget that caffeine can affect sleep, too. So if you workout in the evening, a pre-gym coffee could stop you getting to sleep that night.
But if you have no issues with caffeine, go ahead and try an espresso before your next session. See how it improves your mental and physical performance.