It’s been a while since I talked about coffee and exercise together, but it’s probably one of the most frequent questions I get. How do you drink your coffee before working out, hot or cold?
It’s not a secret that coffee is one of the most popular pre-workout stimulants. For me, it helps not only to improve my performance but also lower post-exercise fatigue.
To begin, I think you should know when what type of workouts I do and when I train, so you can tell if it’s up your alley.
What coffee do I drink before a workout?
The type of coffee I drink before a workout depends on the size of the coffee. I don’t mind drinking small hot espresso before I train. I don’t feel it makes any changes in my body temperature whatsoever.
I also enjoy the taste. For me, it’s worth taking 4 extra minutes to slow down and savor the moment, instead of rushing.
Here’s a photo of my favorite (and strongest) Starbucks espresso I drink hot before I train.
On the days when I feel crushed from the day before, and I need more caffeine to wake me up, I choose something larger. I like Americano or lungo. Then, I rather go for iced coffee or soft serve.
I don’t drink hot Americano before my exercise. It just takes too long to wait for the coffee to cool down.
Which coffee is best (hot or cold) according to research?
According to Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal, “increasing body heat is a limiting factor during exercise and it is well established that exercise is prematurely terminated in the heat.”
The journal suggests you should drink cold beverages before a workout because it helps to minimize thermal strain and improve endurance performance.
“It’s an effective way to rehydrate the body and pre-cooling, as compared to hot beverages.”
“Drinking cold beverages helps to reduce body temperature before exercise and improve thermoregulation, however, it also has some limitations.” states the journal.
An article published in PLoS ONE Journal states that “environmental conditions and temperatures have a huge impact not only on the core body temperature but also on performance.”
“Several physiological adaptations occur in hot environmental conditions,” according to the publication:
- Increased overall fatigue and tiredness
- Reduced endurance exercise performance
- Elevated core body temperature
- Increased perspiration
- Increased heat storage capacity
According to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), “The optimum environmental temperature to exercise is 6.2°C for men and 6.8°C for women.”
Benefits I’ve experienced from drinking cold coffee before a workout
1. Faster to drink
One of the benefits I get from drinking cold coffee before my training is it gets easier to drink. I don’t have to wait for 15-20 minutes.
If I want, I can drink a whole pint of coffee in under 60 seconds and within 1-2 minutes I’m ready to get started with my warm-up.
Here’s a photo of me drinking cold Americano in front of my gym.
2. Easier to combine with other mixers
Some days when I’m in the good mood, I like to prepare fancy pre-workout coffee shakes with other ingredients like protein powder, lemon, or coconut water.
As much as I enjoy sipping my pre-workout coffee with protein powder, it must be served cold. I cannot stand the warm protein shakes.
To be fair, it’s downright disgusting.
Here’s a photo of Tchibo caffeine water I like to add to my coffee before I train.
3. It has more caffeine
I feel I can handle stronger coffee if I drink it cold. For instant coffee, I can (literally) add a few more spoons and drink it with cold water in one go.
It also has slightly less acidity and tastes less bitter. If I drink instant coffee hot, I can only add 1-2 spoons. Anything more than that ruins the taste.
4. It cools me down
As soon as the weather warms up, I love to make my pre-workout from iced coffee. It not only tastes good but also has some additional benefits, especially in a hot environment.
I noticed that drinking cold coffee before wokrout helps to cool me down, especially during the summer days. For me, working out in warm weather is not fun.
You may know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever exercised in a crowded gym in the middle of the summer (without aircon).
Here’s how I look when my body gets too warm in the room without air conditioning.
This room was horrible. The air feels stodgy and it doesn’t take long to be out of breath and break out in a sweat (even after a 5-minute warmup).
To cool myself down, I also like to hop into cold water baths (I have one in my local hotel gym.)
Here’s a photo of my taking a cold bath right after the wokrout.
For me, taking cold water baths or using cooling fans has a positive effect on my recovery.
The benefits of cold coffee before a workout according to research
Danielle LaFata, RD, is a researcher and specialist in sports dietetics from the Athletes’ Performance Elite Training Center in Phoenix, AZ.
In her article published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Danielle documented the effects of drinking cold beverages during an exercise session on core temperature and markers of performance.
Participants were divided into two groups:
- Cold beverage 4°C
- Room temperature beverage 22°C
See the graph below.
Participants in the cold group experienced a significantly smaller spike in core body temperature, versus people who drink room temperature drinks.
According to the International Journal of Sports Medicine, “drinking cold coffee helps to delay the increase in core body temperature.”
“The elevated core temperature has a negative effect on cognitive ability, can elevate sympathetic nervous system activity, and increase muscle fatigue.”
Disadvantages of drinking cold coffee before a workout
Here are some of the disadvantages of drinking cold coffee right before a workout, according to research.
1. It doesn’t help with shorter workouts
According to the Journal of Sport and Health Science, drinking cold coffee helps with pre-cooling, however, it is probably only beneficial for endurance exercise of up to 30–40 minutes rather than intermittent, or high-intensity interval training.
“Drinking cold beverages shows many benefits under warmer weather rather than cooler conditions,” states the journal.
2. It can lower performance
The article published in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica Journal states that the cooling effect from cold beverages on the body may slow down the rate of blood lactate clearance.
“Blood lactate concentration appears to be higher (with a slower elimination rate) in cooler muscles. Higher blood lactate may lead to reduce performance,” according to the journal.
What about sugar?
Before I train, I like my coffee to be black. I rarely go for fancy coffees with flavors, creamer, and milk.
Instead of sugar, I prefer to have something sweet on the side like Turkish delight. This extra sugar kick helps me do more reps (or run longer) than drinking coffee alone.
My wife loves cappuccino which is creamy and loaded with milk. I like the taste, but this is not my type of pre-workout coffee. I can drink an extra grande cappuccino on Saturday lunch, but not before I run the 5k.
What about hot coffee?
As I said, it’s ok to drink hot coffee like espresso right before a workout because it contains caffeine, as well as it has a nice smell thanks to the coffee oils.
I normally drink cold.
Or iced coffee.
I recommend you should drink cold coffee because it’s an effective pre-colling strategy, as compared to hot coffee. The point of precooling is to reduce body temperature and reduce fatigue.
Cold coffee also has more caffeine content and tastes less bitter. I also find that cold coffee also has many positive physiological effects like increased performance, especially in a hot environment.