Here in Britain, we love a coffee. In fact, 63% of Britons drink coffee regularly; that’s even more than regular tea drinkers! Aside from being delicious, it contains caffeine — and this naturally occurring substance is a great way to get a pre-workout energy boost, according to a whole host of research.

The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that caffeine “significantly improved” the performance of both well-trained and recreational 5k runners. Competitive rowers improved their time over 2,000 metres by about four seconds after a caffeine fix.

But will a latte have the same effect as an energy drink or caffeine supplement? Can a flat white help you go all out? Let’s find out if a coffee will actually improve your workout.

How does coffee impact your workout?

The average cup of coffee contains roughly 100 mg of caffeine, so we already know that it has the vital ingredient. That amount is enough to unlock benefits including:

  • increased muscular strength, endurance and power
  • increased aerobic endurance
  • increased calorie burn for several hours
  • reduced perceived effort and muscle pain

Caffeine can also boost your alertness and improve your concentration, while a cup of coffee can improve your mood. Put it all together and coffee doesn’t only help you enjoy a more effective workout — it can also help you get motivated to exercise in the first place!

How much coffee should you drink before exercising?

Everything in moderation. Drinking 1–2 cups of coffee before your workout should give you more than enough caffeine to support your performance. If you’re worried about feeling full or bloated, choose 1–2 espresso shots instead; they have less liquid but more caffeine. 

Overdoing it might lead to jitteriness and hurt your workout rather than enhancing it. Everyone’s caffeine sensitivity is different, so start with a smaller amount and see how your body responds.

When’s the best time to drink a pre-workout coffee?

Unless you head to the gym right after breakfast, your morning cup of coffee probably won’t get the job done. Studies show that it takes about 45 minutes for caffeine to reach its maximum concentration in the blood. After that, your body burns through it and the effects are lessened. Aim to start your workout 30 to 60 minutes after you finish your coffee, when you will be experiencing the peak of your caffeine buzz. 

Coffee vs. energy drinks: Which will fuel my workout better?

Coffee is a natural stimulant that can help to support a more effective workout. In comparison, energy drinks can be a bit of a gamble. While they will almost certainly boost your alertness and focus, they’re often high in artificial ingredients and might even contain too much caffeine to benefit your training.

Studies have found that caffeine can improve performance when delivered in low doses before exercise, but high doses (more than 9 mg/kg body weight) increase the risk of diarrhoea, dehydration, anxiety, and other adverse effects. A typical energy drink may also contain up to 54 grams of sugar, which is equal to 13 teaspoons. Our advice? Stick to coffee for a steadier energy boost.

Are there any downsides to drinking coffee before exercising?

If you know coffee gives you an upset stomach, working out might make the problem worse. During exercise, your body redirects blood away from digestion and towards active muscle groups, which can sometimes lead to indigestion. That’s why some people prefer to exercise on empty stomachs.
Timing also comes into play. If you drink coffee to boost your evening workout, you may end up disrupting your sleep — even though exercise should help you sleep better! Depending on how quickly your body processes caffeine, you may need to stop drinking coffee 6 to 8 hours before bedtime.

Coffee at David Lloyd Clubs

Enjoyed at the right time and in the right quantity, coffee can be a fantastic fuel for your workouts. Even better, the award-winning coffee at David Lloyd Clubs is from Change Please, a social enterprise that trains people experiencing homelessness to become baristas.

Ever since our partnership began in February 2020, every cup of Change Please coffee sold at our clubs has gone towards people experiencing homelessness to provide living wage jobs, housing, training and employment opportunities. Through our partnership, we have raised over £2 million to help hundreds of people turn their lives around.

We’ve also gifted two mobile coffee vans – keep an eye out for them at events across the UK, and enjoy your pre-workout coffee knowing it’ll not only boost your performance but have a positive impact.

Discover more about our commitment to doing the right thing for our members, our teams and our communities.