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If you’re a regular gym-goer, you’re probably familiar with “pre-workout.” For those who aren’t, pre-workout is a supplement that usually comes in powder form to be mixed into water and taken within half an hour of starting some exercise. The ingredients depend on the brand, but you can usually count on seeing things like Beta-Alanine, L-Theanine, L-Citrulline, BCAAs and creatine – stuff that’s supposed to help with endurance and recovery.
But all of them also include caffeine. With most popular brands, you’ll find 200-400 milligrams per single-scoop serving. For reference, a cup of coffee usually has between 80-100 milligrams of caffeine.
Scientists have been researching caffeine’s effect on sports and exercise since the 1900s, so we have some ideas of how it all works. They agree that a cup of coffee before working out can improve performance – beyond just waking you up a little bit.
“When caffeine blocks [the brain receptors that make us feel tired], the result is a stimulating effect,” says Nanci Guest, a dietitian, coach and researcher at the University of Toronto. Then your body releases other hormones like dopamine and epinephrine, which help with mood, focus and alertness. Additionally, caffeine boosts the muscular contraction rate, possibly giving muscles more power.
But the placebo effect is also something to take into consideration. Other studies show that if we think it’s going to work, that may be all we need to perform better.
Healthline states: “Caffeine induces the breakdown of fat in fat cells, increases your body’s production of heat, and increases fat oxidation in people with an average weight, overweight, and obesity.” So, it’s also linked to fat loss when it comes to exercise, too, which could be an added benefit for those trying to shed some weight.
Remember to stay hydrated if you plan on getting in some caffeine before a workout. If you’re drinking a weak cup of coffee before a run, it isn’t as much of a concern as taking a concentrated amount of caffeine via a pre-workout supplement. Remember, caffeine is a diuretic, and working out usually means sweating. So the most important thing here is to get enough fluids into your body.
But always do your own research on any health supplements you decide to try, and talk to a medical professional for solid advice.