If your workout needs a little boost, having caffeine before you exercise can be just what you need. Studies have shown that ingesting caffeine before a workout increases your endurance, can help ease postexercise muscle soreness, and can help sedentary people exercise more vigorously. While caffeinated gels, drinks, and chews help give a much-needed boost during endurance races, you should play it safe when it comes to your caffeinated workout. Stay away from energy drinks, and opt for naturally caffeinated options with these tips.
Have a shot: An espresso shot before a workout is convenient, since it won't weigh you down and can be drunk quickly if you're on your way to the gym. Take the shot, which on average contains about 75 milligrams of caffeine, about 30 minutes before your workout to reap the effects of the caffeine during your workout.
Take a coffee break: If you are going to drink a full cup of coffee or tea before you exercise, make sure that you drink it about an hour before so you won't be full of liquid when you work out. Note that a 16-ounce cup of Starbucks coffee contains 330 milligrams of caffeine, so don't drink a full cup before an evening workout if caffeine normally keeps you awake.
Look for caffeinated snacks: A recent study found that eating a small piece of dark chocolate before a workout can help with endurance because it contains a flavonoid that may help muscles resist fatigue. While a small piece of dark chocolate may not contain that much caffeine, the combination of carbs, caffeine, and flavonoids may help give you a small boost. For a bigger caffeinated effect, look for energy gels and chews that contain caffeine.
No matter what your caffeine strategy, if you are training for a race and use caffeine to help your workouts, endurance running and nutrition coach Matt Fitzgerald recommends in his book The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Training to go on a caffeine fast a week or two before your big day. Since your body acclimates to the effects of caffeine, taking a weeklong break will ensure that you feel the greatest effects during your race. You should also take care to not go over the recommended daily intake of 300 milligrams.