A woman sitting on a bench drinking coffee

A Pre-Workout Coffee Can Boost Your Calorie Burn

Want to get more fat-burning payoff from your spin cycling, HIIT training, or Crossfit workouts? Then I have one word for you:


Yep, that’s right. That glorious drink that transforms you from a zombie into a human being in the morning can also ramp up the benefits you get from exercise. In fact, there’s a ton of research showing that caffeinated coffee is ergogenic—that is, it enhances your performance when you work out—and that it keeps you burning more calories long afterward.

Here’s a sampling of the findings:

  • Athletes burned 15% more calories after a cycling workout when they took a dose of caffeine before their workouts instead of a placebo.
  • Stationary bike riders burned more calories and found working out easier and more fun  when they consumed caffeine before exercising, compared to when they took a placebo.
  • Men cycled harder after consuming caffeine than they did when they didn’t consume it—yet in both conditions, the men felt like they exerted the same amount of effort.
  • Weightlifters did more repetitions after getting a dose of caffeine, and the caffeine reduced their feelings of exertion and pain.

So caffeine helps you burn more fat, energizes you so you work out harder, makes exercise more fun, and eases those workout-related aches and pains. How’s that for awesome? And here’s more news that will make you happy. Experts used to think that regularly drinking coffee diminished its exercise-related benefits over time.

But new research shows that both coffee newbies and java junkies get the same boost from a pre-workout dose of caffeine. Want still more good news? The belief that coffee dehydrates you turns out to be a myth. In fact, it hydrates you as well as water.

Why is caffeine an exercise booster?

There are lots of reasons why caffeine adds power to your workouts. Among them:

  • It binds to the same receptors as a chemical called adenosine. Because adenosine makes you drowsy and plays a role in pain perception, blocking its receptors can make you more alert and reduce sensations of pain.
  • It enables your body to switch from burning sugar to burning fat, so your muscles can work longer before they get tired.
  • It causes your body to release the “fight or flight” hormones that ready you for action.
  • It’s thermogenic, meaning that it increases heat production, helping you burn more calories.

In addition, caffeine is a mood booster, hiking your levels of “feel good” dopamine—and when you’re happy, it’s easier to attack your workouts with gusto.

Tips for your pre-workout caffeine fix

Whether you’re a serious athlete or you work out just to stay in shape, a pre-exercise shot of caffeine is definitely worth a try. Here are some tips for getting the most reward from your dose of coffee:

  • If you want the maximum caffeine boost, drink a light-roast coffee. (It has a higher caffeine content.) If you’re more interested in other health benefits, choose a dark roast, which contains more antioxidants.
  • Drink your coffee about an hour before exercising. This will allow time for the effects to kick in.
  • Skip the cream and sugar. (Coconut milk is fine, and so is monk fruit sweetener.)
  • Don’t overdo it. One to two cups of coffee will give you the boost you want. If you don’t already drink caffeinated drinks, start with a single six-ounce cup.
  • Do your coffee-enhanced workouts early in the day. That way, the caffeine won’t keep you from falling asleep at night.

Also, buy a good-quality coffee—not the cheap stuff, which may contain mold and other contaminants. After all, you go for the best when you’re buying a sports bra, a yoga mat, or a pair of running shoes… so go first-class when it comes to this important new piece of exercise “equipment”!

Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!