Hot or Cold Coffee Before A Workout? (Which one is better?)


It’s not a secret that coffee is one of the most popular pre-workout stimulants that help not only to improve exercise performance but also lower post-exercise fatigue. However, not much has been said about coffee temperature. Today I will clarify if you should drink hot or cold coffee before a workout?

As a whole, you should be drinking cold coffee before the workout because it’s an effective way to rehydrate the body and pre-cooling, as compared to hot coffee. Drinking cold coffee helps to reduce body temperature before exercise and improve thermoregulation. However, it also has some limitations.

Should We Drink Hot or Cold Coffee Before a Workout?

Increasing body heat is a limiting factor during exercise and it is well established that exercise is prematurely terminated in the heat. You should be drinking cold coffee before a workout because it helps to minimize thermal strain and improve endurance performance.

Working out in warm weather is not fun. You may know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever exercised in the crowded gym in the middle of the summer. 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).

That’s because several physiological adaptations occur in hot environmental conditions.

For example:

  • Increased overall fatigue and tiredness
  • Reduced endurance exercise performance
  • Elevated core body temperature
  • Increased perspiration
  • Increased heat storage capacity

(heat storage capacity is the body’s ability to store heat, which is limited during the heat and related to exercise intensity).

In other words, environmental conditions and temperatures have a huge impact not only on the core body temperature but also on the performance.

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 (El Helou et al. 2012).

Should we drink hot or cold coffee before a workout? In general, we should be drinking cold or iced coffee as a pre-workout because it helps with pre-cooling, which is an effective way to reduce core body temperature and improve endurance exercise capacity. Cold coffee also accelerates acclimation and enables to train at higher intensities.

Drinking Cold Coffee Before Workout

In general, you can drink cold coffee before a workout because it helps with thermoregulation and reduces exercise fatigue. Several studies have shown that pre-cooling before exercise in form of cold coffee, cold water baths, and cooling fans has a positive outcome for endurance exercise performance.

Dr. Danielle LaFata from the Athletes’ Performance Elite Training Center documented the effects of 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.

Lafata, Danielle et al. “The effect of a cold beverage during an exercise session combining both strength and energy systems development training on core temperature and markers of performance.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 9,1 44. 19 Sep. 2012, doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-44

As you can notice, all people had elevated core body temperature, however, participants in the cold group had a significantly smaller rise (Lafata et al. 2012).

Is cold coffee good before a workout? Overall, cold coffee is good before a workout because it 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.

Another reason why I prefer to drink cold coffee as a pre-workout is because it’s stronger. Studies have shown that caffeine concentrations in cold coffee were substantially higher than in their hot brew counterparts.

Apart from the better kick, it also has slightly less acidity and tastes less bitter.

Learn more: Click here to learn more about “how to make pre workout coffee“.

Drinking Ice Coffee Before Workout

As soon as the weather warms up, I love to make my pre-workout from ice coffee. It not only tastes good but also has some additional benefits, especially in a hot environment.

Can I drink iced coffee before a workout? Overall, you can drink ice coffee before a workout because it helps to maintain optimal hydration status. Some data suggest that eating or drinking crushed ice before and during exercise in a hot environment is an effective way to minimize thermal strain and improve endurance performance, compared with cold or hot water.

In the scientific literature, this process is called internal cooling via fluid ingestion. It works by drinking ice cold fluids (e.g. coffee or water) and helps to prevent hyperthermia.

Dr. Christopher John Stevens from the University of Newcastle in Australia documented that ingestion of ice was an effective ergogenic aid for triathlon running performance in the heat.

They also concluded that eating ice led to decreased gastrointestinal temperature and increased oxygen consumption (Stevens, Christopher John et al. 2013).

Limitations of Cold Coffee Before Workout

Here are some of the disadvantages of drinking cold coffee before a workout:

  • Cold coffee helps with pre-cooling, however, studies have shown that pre-cooling is probably only beneficial for endurance exercise of up to 30–40 minutes rather than intermittent or high-intensity interval training.
  • Blood lactate concentration appears to be higher (with a slower elimination rate) in “cooler muscles” (source). This means that drinking cold coffee may not be effective to improve performance in short intense exercise bouts.
  • Drinking cold coffee shows many benefits under warmer weather rather than cooler conditions. 

Can I drink hot coffee before a workout? In general, you can drink hot coffee before a workout because it contains caffeine, as well as it has a nice smell thanks to the coffee oils. However, cold coffee is easier to mix with other ingredients like protein powder, milk, or coconut water, which are also good pre-workout drinks.

I love the smell and aroma of freshly brewed hot coffee, especially in the morning. However, when it comes to workouts, not the biggest fan of drinking hot coffee before my exercise.

Conclusion

In general, you should drink cold coffee before a gym 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. Cold coffee also has many positive physiological effects like increased performance, especially in a hot environment.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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