Last Updated: February 5th, 2021
Well, like most people talk over coffee…Today we will talk about coffee. On a lazy afternoon like today, here I am sitting with my cup of steaming hot coffee, wondering how can a drink so great be bad for running in any way. Keeping my fondness aside, people have their own contradictory theory about it.
Is Coffee Bad For Running?
No coffee is not bad for running. Drinking coffee before a run decreases the runner’s perception of effort and makes her run faster thereby showing significant improvement in performance. It also helps in faster post-run recovery.
Let’s have a detailed look at how this wonder drink impacts your running…
Does drinking coffee before running help or hurt my performance?
Caffeine is the primary component of coffee.
Athletes and sportspersons around the world use caffeine as a pre-workout supplement.
Some of its benefits are:
- Coffee causes the brain to be more alert, hence you are more focused and your reaction time is faster.
- It improves your mood which makes you positive towards your running.
- Coffee decreases the perception of effort. You will be feeling comparatively lesser effort than what you are actually putting into the run i.e a six-minute mile run may appear like a seven-minute mile run. This makes you run faster and harder without actually feeling the pain of it.
- It improves your endurance as you can run more distance faster. Hence there is an overall improvement in your performance.
- Running makes you lose calories either by burning your carbs or fats. Drinking coffee increases fatty acid in the bloodstream. This makes you burn fats over carbs while running. So actually you are losing “the fat” this way :). Isn’t it good news if you are running to lose weight.
- The other benefit is, it maintains the glycogen stores in your body. This is very much important if you are running long distances.
- It makes you more heat tolerant. This is very helpful for runners in the tropical region where the sun is harsher.
- A cup of black coffee comes with just 1 cal. You can easily grab a cup without worrying much about the calories.
Some people may find coffee too strong to have and others may have GI related troubles.
For those who cannot tolerate coffee, they can just rinse their mouth with black coffee.
Even that much is sufficient to give you a boost in your performance.
How long before a run should I drink coffee?
Normally drinking coffee 30-60 mins before the run does its job.
If you are going for a morning run, it is very good to sip some coffee before the run.
It not only improves your performance but also makes you alert, which is essential in the morning.
Caffeine has a long-lasting effect.
So taking coffee an hour or so before your run will keep you going through the entire stretch.
The caffeine-enriched energy gels have immediate effect hence it can be taken while running.
If you are going for a late-night run, you can drop the idea of having black coffee before the run.
This is because caffeine and a high-intensity workout may delay your sleep.
However, you can take a shower to relax before bed.
How much coffee should you drink before you run?
Coffee sure is a boost for your performance but even this has an upper limit.
The prescribed amount for caffeine is 5 mg/kg.
This means if you are 150 pounds i.e. 68 kg you can take up to 340 mg of caffeine.
One cup of coffee has 95-100 mg of caffeine.
This means you can take up to 3 or 4 cups of coffee.
If you have not tried coffee earlier, you can start with 2-3 mg/kg.
See how it is impacting your performance and also how your body is responding to it.
Some people may find it difficult to digest or may have headaches or jitters.
In all cases, it is recommended to cap your intake to 400 mg of caffeine.
It is advised not to experiment with coffee on the day of your final run.
You should practice running with caffeine way ahead of your final run.
As said earlier, a cup of plain black coffee has almost zero calories.
The caloric value of coffee increases by adding creme or sugar.
Hence you should be more careful if you are not drinking plain black coffee.
Is drinking coffee good for long-distance running?
Long-distance running is challenging and requires a lot of effort and perseverance.
Even for the best runners, there are situations where she feels the drag.
Coffee, on the other hand, reduces the feeling of effort.
This means if you feel the drag and exhaustion after a 5-mile run.
With the intake of coffee before the run, you may not feel the drag even you have run the same distance.
You may be able to run longer and faster without feeling the actual impact it is having on your body.
In a way, coffee increases your potential to run.
This is very much helpful for runners running marathons.
Coffee is a legal stamina booster and that is why it is consumed by most athletes.
Should you train with caffeine?
As in an exam, so in a run, do not experiment with anything new on the finale.
If you suddenly introduce anything to your body, you will not be able to judge how your body will react to it.
Caffeine boosts the performance exactly the same way in both practices as during the actual run.
So it is better to train yourself with a kick of caffeine.
During the training, you will get to know how much caffeine your body can tolerate.
Some runners are caffeine intolerant.
There may arise symptoms like headaches, heartburn, or excessive urination.
Although it is said that you can take up to 5 mg/kg, but that may not be the case with you.
Your body may bear 2-3 mg/kg caffeine but not more than that.
You must be well aware and prepared for the consequences.
Apart from that, if you planning for a long-distance run, you should be knowing when is the right time to take an energy gel.
Not only that sometimes just rinsing your mouth with a gulp of black coffee is sufficient.
But you should know when to do that.
And all this can come only with practice.
So indeed it is the right thing to train yourself for the big show with caffeine.
How does coffee help in running recovery?
Now let’s see what happens after the run.
Running long causes a lot of pressure on the muscles and they tend to become sore.
In a study, it was observed that taking coffee before the strenuous exercise, causes 50% less muscle soreness.
Less soreness makes a faster recovery.
Another point that was stated that drinking coffee before the run, decreases the perception of effort.
You may feel less tired after the run, hence you may need a lesser recovery period.
Running long or working out for longer hours makes your body go into the glycogen depletion state.
Post-run, if you intake caffeine along with your regular carbs, triggers faster glycogen replacement in your body.
Faster glycogen replacement means faster recovery.
Study shows that coffee is a rich source of antioxidants.
Running longs makes your body go into oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is a state where the number of free radicals is increased drastically.
This can impact and suppress your immunity.
To avoid this the free radicals need to be balanced by antioxidants.
Coffee being a good and an easily available source of antioxidants can be very effective post-run.
Can you use caffeine pills or supplements?
Caffeine is a legal performance enhancer.
It stimulates the central nervous system and improves mental alertness.
For some runners, caffeine is available in the form of pills or energy gels or drinks.
This makes it easy for you to grab it on the go.
However, you must be very careful in selecting the right pill.
Normally the prescribed dosage for an average adult is not more than 400 mg.
So check on the composition before buying.
It is best t0 check with your coach or GP to use the right amount.
Every runner has a different metabolism pattern.
The impact of the same amount of coffee can be different on a different runner.
The best would be to see the impact on your body rather than blindly following someone.
You should always note your body response to the supplements.
Practice with the supplements while training before the actual run.
Overuse of caffeine supplements and pills can have an adverse effect on your health.
In some cases, it causes insomnia, increases heart rate, and anxiety.
It has also been noted that there has been an increase in the number of deaths due to cardiac arrest due to the overuse of these pills.
Hence use them diligently and monitor your health regularly.
Will drinking coffee before my run make me faster?
How I wish this was true…
Well, any drink will not make you run faster.
If this was true all you need to do is just drink coffee and become fast runners.
Coffee impacts your endurance and performance.
So what happens if you are running 7 minutes a mile, you may feel it like 6 minutes a mile.
It decreases the perception of effort and makes you run a little comfortable.
You may feel you are faster on your toe.
It does improve your stamina.
You will be more focused to achieve your target run.
It makes you positive and alert in completing your race.
These factors make you a better runner.
Can I take coffee during the run?
Coffee almost immediately stimulates your senses.
However, for the best result, it is said to take coffee 30-60 min before the run.
This gives enough time for your body to absorb caffeine completely.
I am really not sure how convenient it is for you to stop for coffee during the run.
Well, my friend, nothing is impossible, so yes you can drink coffee during the run.
All you need to take care of spilling.
Sometimes just rinsing your mouth with a gulp of coffee is sufficient.
The other alternative is to take caffeine pills or energy drinks with caffeine.
Wiles, J. D., et al. “Effect of caffeinated coffee on running speed, respiratory factors, blood lactate, and perceived exertion during 1500-m treadmill running.” British journal of sports medicine 26.2 (1992): 116-120.
Clarke, N.D., Richardson, D.L., Thie, J. and Taylor, R., 2018. Coffee ingestion enhances 1-mile running race performance. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 13(6), pp.789-794.
Higgins S, Straight CR, Lewis RD. The effects of preexercise caffeinated coffee ingestion on endurance performance: an evidence-based review. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism. 2016 Jun 1;26(3):221-39.
Casal, DAVID C., and ARTHUR S. Leon. “Failure of caffeine to affect substrate utilization during prolonged running.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 17, no. 1 (1985): 174-179.
Graham, T. E., Hibbert, E., & Sathasivam, P. (1998). Metabolic and exercise endurance effects of coffee and caffeine ingestion. Journal of Applied Physiology, 85(3), 883-889.
Blogger and a fitness enthusiast. She loves running and Yoga and everything in between. She started running to manage her weight and to eat to her heart’s content. A true foodie at heart she shares whatever knowledge she has gained throughout the years about weight management and fitness.