Fact Check: Does Coffee Before a Workout Enhance Athletic Performance?

Does coffee enhance athletic performance

Espresso, caf­fè lat­te, or cappuccino: coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the worldMany people drink coffee before a workout or running because it is said to act as a natural performance booster, helping you run faster and to increase stamina. But is this true? We’ve compiled the most important facts about coffee for you along with a delicious recipe for a coffee smoothie!

How caffeine works

Caffeine is what gives coffee its kick. The substance stimulates the nervous system: it increases the production of noradrenaline in the brain and thus has a performance-enhancing, stimulating effect. This is often just what you need after a short night’s sleep or to beat the afternoon slump. Coffee reaches its maximum effect about 30 minutes after consumption.

Did you know?

One cup of drip coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine, while an espresso has about 30 mg. Studies show that for a healthy adult, three to four cups (max. 300 to 400 mg of caffeine) a day is not associated with any health risks. Coffee is also safe during pregnancy in moderation.(1)

Coffee affects the body in numerous ways:

  • Coffee is high in antioxidants and thus can boosts your immune system.(2)
  • Your body temperature increases for a short time after drinking coffee because caffeine promotes thermogenesis. And this, in turn, increases your metabolism so you burn more calories.(3)
  • Coffee temporarily raises your blood pressure. This is bad for people suffering from high blood pressure because caffeine causes your heart to beat faster and dilates your blood vessels.(4) Sometimes, people feel like they are having heart palpitations if the coffee is too strong. But if your blood pressure is normal, the beverage can have a positive effect on your heart.
  • Caffeine dilates the bronchioles of the lungs. This means that it relaxes the muscles of the bronchial tubes and thus makes it easier to breathe.(5)
  • Do you often have to go to the bathroom after a cup of coffee? Caffeine temporarily stimulates kidney function.(6) Increased filtering means that your kidneys produce more urine.
  • The caffeine, acids, tannins, and bitters in coffee stimulate peristalsis (wave-like muscle contractions of the intestinal muscles that cause bowel movements). If consumed on an empty stomach, coffee can thus get sluggish bowels moving again.(7)
  • Caffeine is also said to have a pain-killing effect. It is used in some medicines as an auxiliary analgesic (for example, against headaches).(8)

Does coffee improve stamina?

Black coffee before a workout is a popular natural booster among fitness enthusiasts. One study investigated the effect of coffee consumption before endurance training (running and cycling). Athletes were able to improve stamina and performance in five out of nine studies. Plus, caffeine is said to reduce the perceived effort and make it easier to breathe, so you can run faster. You need three to eight milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight to see an improvement in your performance.(9) Black coffee can therefore enhance your performance before exercising. However, there is no clear evidence that caffeine has a positive effect on muscle strength.(10)

Good to know:

Coffee is a stimulant and should therefore not count towards your daily liquid requirement.

Coffee before a workout: it’s the amount that matters

So how many cups of coffee should you drink before running or working out? It depends on the person. In general, one to two cups of black coffee should be enough to improve your performance. Try it out and see how your body reacts. Drink a cup of coffee 30 minutes before your workout.

You also need to see if coffee agrees with you: people with stomach issues often have to be careful about consuming coffee, because coffee can cause a stomachache and/or heartburn.

Recipe Tip: Creamy Coconut Coffee Smoothie

Coffee in a smoothie? This creamy drink with coconut and bananas gives you that extra kick before your run. 


  • 1 banana
  • ½ banana (cut into slices and frozen)
  • 100 ml coffee (chilled)
  • 50 ml coconut milk
  • 1-2 Tbsp coconut flakes


  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. 
  2. Garnish your smoothie with coconut 


Julia Denner Julia is a dietician and sports nutritionist. Before she began her position as Communications Specialist at Runtastic, she spent several years working as a dietician in the surgical department at Vienna General Hospital. Julia is passionate about inspiring others to eat a healthy, balanced diet. View all posts by Julia Denner