Get Buzzed Before Your Next Workout: Coffee’s Affect On Speed, Strength, & Pain

Drinking coffee for an extra boost of energy…

Enjoying a bag full of cherries for muscle soreness…

Eating beets to run further…

You’ve seen stories pop up over the years about “miracle” foods helping to improve overall fitness and recovery.

But Is It Really Possible To Get Performance Benefits From Food?

There have been several academic studies based on food and fitness performance. But how relevant are they to you and me?

Get this, one study published showed that coffee can relieve muscle soreness by over 50%

But, do you have to drink 2 shots of straight espresso? Or a venti sized Starbucks to get those pain relieving results?


Beets and spinach have both been linked to increased endurance, but just what does that mean?

  • Are we talking endurance like 5 extra minutes or 10 seconds?
  • Will your fitness performance suddenly improve 10-fold?
  • Will you break out of your plateau?
  • Will you turn into Superwoman if you suddenly starting eating beets and spinach?

All good questions!

And now, wonder no more.

After this, you’ll have a clear understanding on food and your physical performance/recovery.

Today we’re going to start with coffee…

Or as I like to call it: Liquid Gold.

Coffee: What “They” Say It Can Do

The Claims:

  1. Caffeine can help reduce muscle soreness after vigorous and intense exercise.
  2. Caffeine can improve endurance performance.
  3. Caffeine can improve strength performance.


The Truth On Caffeine & Fitness

Coffee and I go back a lot longer than I wish to admit. I might be a coffee lover, but Dan is a self-proclaimed coffee addict.

When we run out of coffee in our home…

It’s just as bad as running out of toilet paper. It must be remedied asap for peace to be restored to our home.



Knowing that there are studies linked to improve fitness performance, I have used this to justify my almost daily latte (unsweetened and with almond milk).

  • I have heard rumors that coffee can help heavy strength training…
  • Can help you run a bit farther, a bit faster…
  • And can assist in muscle recovery.

I didn’t really care if those rumors were true. The sounded good and gave me a reason to justify my caffeine.

But being the science dork I am, now the rumors just aren’t enough. I want to know the truth and so should you.

Was Hercules On A Java Buzz: Coffee And Strength

There has not been nearly as many studies examining the relationship of caffeine and strength training as there have been on endurance running. But there has been enough.


Study after study has concluded this…

Drinking roughly 6g of caffeine/kg of body weight one hour prior to lifting weights can improve your 1-rep max for lower body exercises. Basically, you might be able to squat, deadlift or lunge more weight.

However… when it comes to upper body training such as bench press and rows, there have been no performance benefits presented when caffeine was consumed.


“They” (researchers) don’t know. But I read at least 4 studies that all yielded the same results, so for whatever reason it’s true.


You might want to drink some coffee just on leg days!

Coffee And Endurance


If you drink coffee before a run or high rep workout, will you be able to…

  • Last longer?
  • Go faster?
  • Do better?

Yes. Yes! YES!

Studies such like this one, has confirmed taking in 6 g of caffeine per Kg of body weight can help improve your overall performance.

If you weigh 125 pounds that would be roughly 340 g of caffeine, or 3 cups of coffee.

How much improvement?

According to this 2008 study, participants performed 11% better than non-caffeinated participants when performing maximum reps for endurance training. Meaning that if the placebo group was able to complete 20 reps of an exercise, the coffee drinkers were able to do 24 reps of the same exercise.

That’s awesome… but what about running? What about speed?

If speed is what you’re after, then make sure to down some caffeine! It can help light a fire under your butt!

According to this study, published in Plose One, cyclist that enjoyed 5 mg CAF/kg an hour before a ride rode 5% faster than those that did not enjoy a caffeinated!

5% is huge in the race world.

5% can mean a 7.24 minute/mile pace or an 8 minute/mile pace.

What that means for a 5K time… Would you rather have a 22.26 minute or a 24.48 minute clock time?

That’s a no brainer.

Okay, so coffee can make you lift more, move faster, and move further.

But what about it’s claims to help muscle soreness and recovery.

To be honest, I happened to stubble upon this claim just a few weeks ago. I was intrigued and therefore continued my research which actually lead to this post!

Coffee A Natural Pain Killer?


First, pain is not pride. Do not use pain as a way to gage success. Um K?

You’re a fitness lover, so you’ve probably heard already that foods like ginger, garlic and seafood act as natural anti-inflammatories. I would much rather eat a few pieces of pickled ginger than pop and Advil or two.

Coffee though?

Apparently it’s even better.

A study carried out at the University of Georgia published that drinking coffee can decrease muscle soreness from intense workout sessions by nearly 50% (48 to be exact)!

Muscle soreness is one of those things we love and hate all at the same time.

It’s great to wake up realizing that you pushed your body a new way, but it’s not so much fun when you go to tie your shoes, sit down (how far down is the toilet!), or blow-dry your hair.

Coffee gets another crown for being a post workout friend too.

…Female college students who were not regular caffeine users and did not engage in regular resistance training. One and two days after an exercise session that caused moderate muscle soreness, the volunteers took either caffeine or a placebo and performed two different quadriceps (thigh) exercises, one designed to produce a maximal force, the other designed to generate a sub-maximal force. Those that consumed caffeine one-hour before the maximum force test had a 48 percent reduction in pain compared to the placebo group, while those that took caffeine before the sub-maximal test reported a 26 percent reduction in pain.


It’s believed that caffeine may be able to block the body’s receptors for something called, Adenosine. Which is a chemical released in response to inflammation. Decreased inflammation means decreased muscle soreness.

What’s even better… caffeine may help more than typical drugs like Aleve which in studies only reduced post-workout soreness by 30%.

If you’ve already decided to drink 2 cups of coffee before your workout for the performance benefits, this could just be an added bonus.

A cherry on top of your sundae.

The Caffeine Catch


There has to be a catch, right?

Yes! Unfortunately there is.

Not everyone can expect to get these results. If you’re an avid coffee drinker (which 83% of Americans are), the caffeine likely will not affect you as much as someone who rarely enjoys a cup of Joe. You might need more to get the same benefits.

Then there is also the other side affects of caffeine:

Jitters, increased heart rate, and the shakes might not make you feel comfortable going into a workout or race.

And finally, the coffee side affect… potty time.

Anyone who drinks coffee knows of it’s laxative side affects. No one wants to have that dear in headlight look as they find themselves in the middle of a run because they have to find a bathroom ASAP.

If caffeine is new to you, start small. Learn how your body reacts to see if it’s something that can help or hurt you.

Do I Drink Coffee Before Workouts?

I don’t purposely drink coffee before strength training workouts. Its just not something I think about and I often lift in the middle of the day. However, you will see me up 60-90 minutes before a run drinking a cup of house brewed coffee. I keep it simple, no lattes or espresso before running. That would just be crazy.

I also have to wonder, because I am used to coffee, it is more of a placebo affect? Perhaps I should give off the muddy water for a week or two to cleanse my body.

Answer me this…

I can’t live without my morning _______.

I am not a coffee addict, while I love taking that first sip of coffee in the morning and taking in a deep comforting breath, it’s not a requirement. I actually only drink a cup of coffee every other day during the week.

Personally, I can’t live without my morning

This is Part 1 of Food And Fitness Performance… on Thursday we’re going to hit up Beets, Nitrates, And Endurance.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This