We asked the experts for their take.

Ever heard of the link between pre-workout coffee and an improved sweat session?

Well, you have now, and for good reason, too. Pre-workout coffee is trending as an easy way to pep yourself pre-workout and, in turn, smash your runweight trainingReformer Pilates class, or whatever other workouts you might have on the agenda for this week.

First things first: a quick definition for you. A pre-workout is a supplement that gym-goers and athletes sometimes take pre an intense session to give them energy. How? Well, spoiler alert: with lots of caffeine. “Most popular pre-workouts have between 300 and 500mg caffeine, the equivalent of drinking three or four double espressos in one go,” explains Gymbox sports scientist George Coote.

Obviously that’s an awful lot of caffeine – so what about a slightly less intense alternative? Enter stage right, a good old cup of coffee. Ellie Loxton of Two Chimps Coffee explains: “Experts published the first study into the link between caffeine and an improved workout in 1907,” she shares. “Most point to the same conclusion – that coffee is effective as an ergogenic aid, can increase power output, boost endurance and fine-tune focus, too.”

Here, we pick the brains of the two experts to get their take on whether a cup of pre-session joe can really boost your workout. Don’t miss our guides to workout recoverydelayed onset muscle soreness, and what to eat after a workout, while you’re here.

Pre-workout: so, can coffee improve your workouts? 

One 2016 study found that those who supplemented pre-workout saw “significant improvements” in both anaerobic peak and mean power values. That being said, Cootes warns that your daily recommended intake of caffeine is between 3mg/kg and should not exceed 6mg/kg/day. “This means a 60kg female should be consuming between 180-360mg per day,” he shares.

Other top tips: pre-workout supplements are unregulated and often the ingredients label can be misleading, so make sure to do thorough research before buying or taking any supplement. “Check the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) for their list of approved supplements, as well as follow guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” he recommends.

What about coffee as a pre-workout, instead? “Caffeine has many positive effects on exercise – a 2014 study found it can reduce the effect of effort, pain and fatigue associated with exercise, potentially giving people an opportunity to work harder and longer in order to reach their fitness goals,” explains Coote.

Pre-workout: Close up cappuccino cup with lighting and copy space

“Your speed, strength and endurance will likely increase,” explains Loxton. “One report by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found regular coffee drinkers to be 4.2 seconds speedier than their decaf-drinking counterparts. They had a faster ‘finishing burst’ in the 1500 metres, too.”

Not only that, but coffee also takes care of the cognitive side of things by improving your rate of perceived exertion (RPE). In other words, you’ll feel motivated to push harder and for longer.

Why is coffee so popular pre-workout? 

A few reasons. It’s cheap, it’s easy to consume, and it’s readily available. Just, as above – be careful not to overdo it.

Pre-workout: a woman mid workout

What’s the difference between coffee and a pre-workout for women?

As above, a pre-workout is a pre-bought supplement that takes kind of like squash designed specifically for consumption – yep, you guessed it – pre-workout to boost your energy and, in turn, your session.

Do note, though: there’s a lot more caffeine in pre-workout than coffee, and more doesn’t always = better.

“An espresso has approximately 60mg of caffeine whereas pre-workout contains anything from 300 to 500mg,” shares Coote (remember that you should aim for 180 to 360mg per day). “Plus, a pre-workout will have more ingredients, ranging from caffeine, to electrolytes, to creatine, to protein.”

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