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Benefits of Caffeine Pre-Run

Most of us know that buzz after a strong cup of coffee; some of us rely on it to get going each and every morning! Besides getting you out of bed, caffeine running is a hot trend that is fiercely debated amongst athletes. 
But what about drinking coffee to give your run the edge? Can it really help you, or is it something that should be avoided?

As you may already know, coffee is a stimulant. It temporarily increases blood pressure, heart rate and in some people, anxiety levels. So, if coffee – or the caffeine within in – can have all of these physical effects, is it really wise to combine it with running? 

Caffeine Running: Can you drink caffeine before running?

Many athletes think so!

A study showed that three-quarters of Olympic athletes choose to have some form of caffeine before a race, and the proportion was higher still for endurance athletes.

Another study revealed a 1% improvement in 5K running times when the runners had enjoyed a coffee pre-race, while one experiment claimed to knock a whole minute off their mile time.

And another study even says that exercise right after drinking caffeine can negate coffee’s negative effects.

The effects are also linked to coffee’s ability to rouse our mental state; not only does it render us more alert, but caffeine also acts as a boost to our determination and desire to run hard. It banishes that sluggish, ‘can’t really be bothered’ attitude, and somehow replaces it with fiery motivation and positivity.

Surely that’s it, then? Double espressos all around!

Not necessarily. Caffeine, while an everyday beverage for many of us, also possesses the power to trigger some unwanted effects.

The cons of coffee

Have you ever noticed a burning feeling in your stomach after a strong brew? Too much coffee can elicit heartburn, stomach pain and other rather unwelcome gastrointestinal side-effects that are definitely not what you want to be dealing with on your daily run.

If this is the case for you, you might want to experiment with how you take your coffee. It could be the addition of milk or too much sugar which makes things worse.

Similarly, a dose of the jitters or a scary palpitation might also be prompted by too much caffeine – especially if you have more than you are used to. Your heart is already working harder during a run, and caffeine running could cause extra work for your heart.

From a runner’s point of view, it is worth pointing out the effect coffee can have on your bladder; we’ve all experienced the need to urinate whilst out running – usually at the point in your run that is furthest from home – but did you know coffee can make this problem worse?

That’s because coffee is a diuretic, and can both increase the urge to urinate and make it more frequent.

Caffeine Running Safety: How to safely drink coffee before a run

If you decide running and coffee is a good mix for you, you might want to experiment with timings. Caffeine only takes between 5 and 15 minutes to enter your bloodstream, and the effects can last between three and five hours.

For that reason, you shouldn’t need to worry too much about when you sip the ‘inky linctus’, but leaving it a little while might give you chance to nip to the loo before getting caught short mid-run!

What about after?

Not many people tend to consume caffeine post-run. Sports drinks tend to prioritise protein and carbohydrates to facilitate recovery, but one study revealed that caffeine combined with carbohydrates helped with muscle recovery. If you got up early and need to avoid the post-run slump, a coffee should at least help with that!

Best way to take your caffeine pre-run

One thing to remember is that coffee comes in many forms.

Black, unsweetened coffee contains zero calories and is probably your best choice for avoiding stomach problems.

Adding in lashings of milk or cream whilst spooning in the sugar will not only pile on the calories but also pre-empt indigestion and potentially an annoying stitch if you run straight after.

Caffeine pills are also an option, for those who can’t stand the taste of the drink – although be careful to check the dose, especially if you’re not used to the effects of caffeine.

Is it a good idea to have caffeine before your run? 

Whatever your opinion on the matter, remember to build up slowly and see what dose helps you the most. Make sure to check out our upcoming events and join our growing running community!

We would love to hear your opinions and outcomes in the comments section below.

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