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Coffee is controversial in general, and especially among runners and other athletes who want to be as healthy as possible. So, is drinking a cup of coffee before you run good or bad? Contrary to its reputation as being “bad for you” coffee has several health benefits and can improve performance.

How does pre-run coffee improve physical performance?

Girl with Coffee Cup

Caffeine is quickly absorbed into the gastrointestinal tract which then stimulates multiple systems in the body. Studies have shown pre-run caffeine can have several positive effects:

  • Boosts mental alertness, improves your mood and even your motivation to run hard1
  • Enhances physical performance and endurance2 by blocking the A1 receptor3
  • Can reduce leg-muscle pain during high-intensity exercise 4
  • Improves anaerobic performance helping you sprint faster5
  • Increases your body’s use of fat as fuel, conserves glycogen and burns more calories both while running and at rest afterward due to the increase in noradrenaline that boosts your metabolic rate6
  • Aids in muscle repair and recovery when consumed with carbohydrates by improving the rate of glycogen replenishment 7
Tip: If you are not a coffee drinker, avoid trying it before a race.  Instead, try drinking before a routine run to see if there are any negative effects.  Race day is not the time to experiment!

Are there any negative effects to drinking coffee before a run?

Some runners have experienced the following side effects:

  • Gastrointestinal tract issues or heartburn
  • Feel jittery and negatively affect sleep
  • Acts as a mild diuretic so is not as hydrating as water
  • Too much can increase the risk of a cardiac event when running

How much coffee should I drink before a run?

The amount depends on the size of the runner, and 3 to 6 mg per kilogram of body weight is a good guide. For a 120-pound runner that is about 160 to 320 mg, and one 8 oz. cup of coffee averages 100-150 mg of caffeine.

How long before a run should I drink my coffee?

The effects of caffeine last for several hours, so you do not need to drink your coffee right before you head out. Because it can act as a diuretic, you might want to drink your cup of joe sufficiently before your run – 30 to 60 minutes - so you won’t have to make any unplanned stops along the way.

Drinking coffee before you run can be good, just be sure to limit the amount that you drink to avoid any negative effects. So grab your favorite mug and enjoy a cup before going on your next run!

Run But First Coffee Mug Run But First Coffee Mug

1Duncan, MJ et al, “The acute effect of a caffeine-containing energy drink on mood state, readiness to invest effort, and resistance exercise to failure.” J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Oct;26(10):2858-65

2Spriet LL, “Caffeine and Performance.” Int J Sport Nutr. 1995 Jun; 5 Suppl: S84-99

3Desbrow B et al, “The effects of different doses of caffeine on endurance cycling time trial performance.” J Sports Sci. 2012;30(2):115-20

4Gliottoni RC et al, “Effect of caffeine on leg-muscle pain during intense cycling exercise: possible role of anxiety sensitivity” Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2009 Apr; 19(2):150-61

5Pontifex KJ et al, “Effects of caffeine on repeated sprint ability, reactive agility time, sleep and next day performance.” J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2010 Dec;50(4):455-64

6Fernández-Elías VE et al, “Ingestion of a moderately high caffeine dose before exercise increases postexercise energy expenditure.” Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2015 Feb;25(1):46-53

7Alghannam AF et al, “Restoration of Muscle Glycogen and Functional Capacity: Role of Post-Exercise Carbohydrate and Protein Co-Ingestion.” Nutrients. 2018 Feb 23;10(2)