If you’re anything like me, you can’t start your day without at least one cup of coffee. When I started to take up running, however, I read all kinds of advice on what I should eat and drink before I started a run, so should you consume caffeine before a run? Drinking a cup of coffee or taking a caffeine supplement before a run can improve your stamina and running times, but too much of a good thing can still be a hindrance. Let’s dive in.
What Does Caffeine Do?
Consuming caffeine before a run can be a good way to improve your run time and endurance. It’s important to make sure that you carefully regulate your intake. While caffeine is one of the most common chemicals used in athletic supplements, you can take it too far. You might also be wondering, is Gatorade good for runners?
Caffeine is a chemical that has a direct result on the central nervous system. The most common effects include the following:
- Increased alertness and cognitive function
- Increased heart rate
- Better concentration
- Increased thirst
- Less drowsiness
- Increased jitteriness and anxiety
- More energy
By drinking coffee before a run, it’s possible to increase your concentration and mental focus. Increasing your heart rate may also help you to move your muscles faster, giving you a slightly better run time. A higher heart rate can also increase calorie burn. You might also be interested in our explainer on should you drink a smoothie before a run.
What Won’t Caffeine Do?
It’s important to realize that there are things that caffeine cannot do. Caffeine cannot help to develop muscles. That means that it is not a magic pill that will help to improve your overall fitness.
Caffeine can help to enhance your workout or run, but it will not replace it. You still have to put in the work.
Increasing your heart rate is a good way to increase your speed, but it will also have some negative consequences. Expect to become thirstier much faster. Also, be aware that while you may feel extra energy while you exercise, it is likely that you will crash harder once the run or workout is over.
Of course, many people have been taking regular doses of caffeine their whole lives and have not noticed these side effects. This is likely because their bodies have adjusted. Caffeine is addictive, and it’s possible for a person to need more over time in order to get the same effects.
How To Consume Caffeine
With that in mind, it’s the general recommendation by the FDA is to limit consumption to less than 400 mg a day of caffeine. That’s the equivalent of about three or four cups of coffee. If you already consume this much, it’s probably a good idea to consume your caffeine before your run. This will give you some minor benefits, even if your body has already adjusted to that amount of caffeine.
If you want to increase caffeine’s effects, it’s a good idea to reduce your consumption on days when you’re not running (or just going for a short run) and then have a strong cup of coffee on training and performance days. If you don’t use caffeine on a regular basis, you’ll likely see some small benefits from consuming a small amount before you go for a run.