Coffee or Caffeine for Athletic Performance?


Caffeine is a known athletic performance enhancer.

But is using it as simple as grabbing a cup of joe before a race?

Let’s take a look at what the research and experts have to say about this.


Why Use Coffee Instead of Caffeine?

There are numerous ways of ingesting caffeine prior to an event from pills, nutrition with caffeine, to liquid gold.

Having a brew is likely the most economic and easiest option, since it seems nearly everyone has grounds at home or a cafe close by.

How Much to Drink? 

Looking at 9 studies that used cupped lightning instead of pure caffeine, researchers typically used and recommend between 3 – 7  milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

To determine how much you need, take your body weight in pounds and multiply it by .45 to have your kilogram weight. Next multiply that by 3 for the low end and 7 for the high end. A 150 pound person is recommended 200-450 mg of caffeine from coffee.

The challenge is that C8H10N4O2 (caffeine) levels in a single cup of java can vary from 75mg to 150mg depending on source and roast.

With all this uncertainty, it’s likely that using the middle ground when it comes to how much you should take and how much in a cup is likely the best.

When to drink it?

Caffeine does take 15-30 minutes to take effect. Thus, taking caffeinated gels during a short event may not be terribly effective.

Sipping on the bean juice for the hour prior to race is both good timing as well as potentially be a method of lowering your pre-race nerves.


The major concern about drinking coffee before an event is the issue of possibly its diuretic (fluid loss) or laxative effects.

It turns out that coffee is not actually a diuretic and you may simply be urinating because you’re drinking a fluid.

The laxative effect of coffee is not related to the caffeine content and can be avoided a few ways. One would be to take caffeine from a non-coffee source. Another would be to wake up early enough before the race to visit the bathroom once or twice beforehand so you have no issues right before or during the event. Third would be to try and limit the amount of fiber or volume of food you eat the day before the event, which could actually help you weigh a bit less during the run.

So it turns out that using coffee may be as simple as grubbing that cup (or two) of rocket fuel in the morning. And best of all, studies suggest doing this may be just as effective as pure caffeine pills or caffeine infused sports nutrition.

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