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PSA: You *Really* Should Start Drinking Coffee Before Working Out

There's a reason athletes are big fans of coffee.
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We all know that a cup of coffee is one of the quickest ways to get an energy boost, but did you also know it could be a great way to improve your workout? According to UKA athletics coach and ultra-distance runner Alex Cook (who is also a registered clinical and sports dietitian) there's a sweet spot when it comes to how far in advance you should consume your caffeine too.

"One study suggests that the ideal time to drink coffee before a workout, in order to boost your endurance levels, is approximately 45 minutes," says Cook. "Many think that caffeine ingestion just before physical activity helps to give them a boost, but the research instead suggests the optimum time for consumption is around 45 minutes to an hour." It shows that an intake of 330mg of caffeine is the ideal amount too, and that it can increase your time to exhaustion by up to 21 minutes.

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Cook explains, "When consumed, caffeine is rapidly absorbed through the gut, circulated to the tissues, and broken down in the liver. It is also rapidly absorbed into the brain. Elevated levels can appear in the bloodstream within 15 to 45 minutes, peaking after about one hour. I find that planning ahead and setting alarm on my phone an hour before a workout or sports activity is a handy way to make sure that I’m timing my caffeine intake to get the optimum effect."

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She adds that pro athletes are also big fans of coffee when it comes to their training too, "Three out of four athletes consume caffeine or caffeine-containing products to increase performance, it's used in the changing rooms of nearly all football and rugby teams too, due to its enhancing effect on endurance performance and high intensive activity."

Continuing on, Cook says, "Caffeine is used widely in professional sport due to its proven benefits enhancing endurance when undertaking physical activity. This is largely thought to be because caffeine intake increases fat oxidation and has a sparing effect on our store of carbohydrates, which leads to a delay in time to exhaustion during exercise."

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Of course, this isn't a signal to go and down a multipack of energy drinks. Caffeine affects everyone differently, and there are certain limits on what is safe to consume daily. The NHS explains "the effect can depend on how much caffeine you normally consume," and warns that "pregnant women should limit their intake of caffeinated drinks because of the caffeine content." The NHS recommends a suitable maximum daily coffee intake to be 400mg/day for healthy adults and 300mg/day for pregnant women. The average caffeine contents in your everyday drinks are estimated as follows:

  • 1 mug of instant coffee: 100mg
  • 1 mug of filter coffee: 140mg
  • 1 mug of tea: 75mg
  • 1 can of cola: 40mg
  • 1 can (250ml) of energy drink, such as Red Bull: up to 80mg – larger cans may contain up to 160mg

If you're worried about a latte dehydrating you ahead of hitting the treadmill or a netball match too, then you needn't fear on that front either–Cook explains there's evidence that caffeine can contribute to daily fluid intake. "Caffeine is almost completely absorbed too, with just 3% being unused and excreted."

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Time to head to the gym via Starbucks in the future then?

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.