Caffeine and Exercise – Facts and Myths

the relationship between caffeine and exercise

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Caffeine has long been a favored stimulant to use before exercise to boost energy for training. However, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions that lead to confusion when using caffeine. Some of this is based on dated information.

Other myths are based on a lack of understanding of the data presented.

5 Facts and Myths About Caffeine and Exercise

To clear the air, here are five caffeine and exercise facts and myths.

Myth: Caffeine Will Dehydrate You

Everyone knows that caffeine is a mild diuretic. This factoid leads to the idea that drinking coffee will inevitably dehydrate you. While it makes sense in theory, this is a myth based on a misunderstanding. 

According to a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism,

“The scientific literature suggests that athletes and recreational enthusiasts will not incur detrimental fluid-electrolyte imbalances if they consume CB in moderation and eat a typical U.S. diet. Sedentary members of the general public should be at less risk than athletes because their fluid losses via sweating are smaller.”

The diuretic effect of caffeine is mild enough that it won’t have an impact if you’re hydrating regularly. In other words, as long as you’re not fueling your entire workout on espresso, you’ll be fine. If you’re drinking more than five cups of coffee a day and hitting the gym, that’s when you need to be concerned about hydration.

Another concern is if you’re taking excessive amounts of pre-workout without balancing your water intake. If you’re taking a caffeinated pre-workout supplement, be sure that you’re hydrating to support your workout properly.

Fact: Different Sources of Caffeine Will Have Different Effects

Not all sources of caffeine will impact you the same. While 1mg of caffeine is the same whether you’re drinking coffee, supplements, or soda, the doses and source will have an impact. 

The first consideration is the ratio of caffeine to liquid, as mentioned above. It’s essential to have something hydrating to balance out the caffeine. Another factor is how quickly you drink it. For example, sipping the coffee you made with the latest technique from Coffee or Bust is vastly different from shooting back a cup of pre-workout. 

Another important consideration for training is the caloric content. Drinking a latte from Starbucks may have the same energizing effect as pre-workout, but it also has hundreds of calories that may negate your progress.

Related Reading: Coffee vs Pre Workout

Myth: You Can’t Overdose on Caffeine

While it takes a lot of caffeine, you can overdose on this seemingly innocuous drug. Don’t worry, though: you’d have to drink around 30 cups of coffee. 

However, there are other risks to be aware of. Having too much caffeine can cause anxiety that could impact your performance. Some people react to caffeine supplements by getting flushed skin and shaking extremities. Caffeine can also create a spike in blood pressure, which is bad for those who have blood pressure issues.

While many of the side-effects aren’t fatal, it’s important to weigh the risks and consume wisely.

Fact: Caffeine Can Improve Athletic Performance

The cognitive and energy-boosting effects of caffeine can improve athletic performance.

According to a study published in Metabolism, Endurance and Performance,

“Caffeine does not improve maximal oxygen capacity directly, but could permit the athlete to train at a greater power output and/or to train longer. It has also been shown to increase speed and/or power output in simulated race conditions. These effects have been found in activities that last as little as 60 seconds or as long as 2 hours.”

A clear mind and energized body are essential for performing at your best. While having caffeine won’t directly impact how much weight you can lift, it might help you find the focus to get it done.

One caveat when using caffeine to boost your performance: don’t neglect your sleep hygiene. While caffeine might offer a temporary boost, proper sleep is what creates long-term results for recovery and strength.

Myth: Exercise Burns All the Caffeine

It’s a common myth that taking caffeine before a workout won’t affect you beyond your training. Whether or not the caffeine is burned off while you exercise depends on your situation. The duration and intensity of your training session have an impact, as well as your heart rate throughout.

In other words, endurance runners and power-lifters will have varying results.

Concluding Thoughts – Should I Use Caffeine for Exercise?

If the benefits of using caffeine outweigh the risks, then it’s fine to use caffeine for exercise. The critical thing to remember is that it’s a supplement. As such, it’s meant to be used to fill the gaps, not as a centerpiece of your training.

Read Next: Benefits of Drinking Green Tea Before a Workout


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