Can Caffeine Help Boost Your Running Performance?

Does drinking caffeine before a run help improve performance?

Yes, drinking coffee before a run can help improve your performance. In fact, according to this study published in 2013, consuming caffeine before exercise helped improve performance in endurance athletes by up to 4.9%. Even if you’re not an endurance runner, you will likely notice higher performance levels when drinking caffeine before a run.

Drinking caffeine before a run vs. not drinking caffeine before a run

Drinking caffeine before a run can certainly improve your speed, endurance and help you enjoy running more. While the effects of caffeine are experienced the most in those who are new to consuming caffeine, they are still noticeable in those who drink caffeine regularly.

If you don’t drink caffeine before a run, you will miss out on these benefits, but you won’t suffer from any of the negative side effects that caffeine consumption can cause. You won’t have to worry about an increased need to urinate, heart palpitations, nausea, or muscle cramps caused by excessive caffeine.

To find out if caffeine boosts your workout, give it a try. Be sure to start with a small amount at first, gradually increasing to the recommended intake level. If you experience negative side effects, stop drinking caffeine before your runs.

Benefits of drinking caffeine before a run

Drinking caffeine before a run can provide several benefits:

  • Increased speed. As mentioned above, studies have shown that drinking caffeine before a run can help you run faster. Caffeine can help improve muscle strength during contraction, allowing your muscles to contract quicker, getting you across the finish line faster. Also, check out how to increase speed without injury for new runners.
  • Increased endurance. While caffeine can help you run faster, it can also help you run longer. Caffeine gives you a “runner’s high,” helping you ignore feelings of fatigue so you can keep moving.
  • Increased fat burning. If you’re looking to lose weight, drinking caffeine before your run might help you achieve your goals. The longer you run, the more of a fat-burning boost you’ll receive. It’s also great news if you’re an endurance runner: caffeine improves your body’s use of fat as a fuel source, helping you push through the last miles of your run.
  • It makes running seem easier. Caffeine makes you feel like you’re doing less work than you actually are. Because of that, you can run further and faster without becoming tired.
  • Improved heat tolerance. This study found that ingesting caffeine before a workout helped athletes to complete more work in extreme heat than those who didn’t have caffeine. If you struggle to get through hot summer workouts, drinking caffeine first might help.

Drawbacks of drinking caffeine before a run

While caffeine can help your speed and endurance, it may also have some negative side effects.

  • Jitters. If your body is sensitive to caffeine, it may make you feel anxious or jittery. It can also occasionally cause headaches and/or heart palpitations.
  • Gastrointestinal issues. Caffeine encourages defecation in some people. While this can be helpful if you struggle with getting “backed up,” it’s not enjoyable while you’re in the middle of a run. Caffeine may also cause heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  • Sleep issues. Caffeine can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule, though this is especially true if you’re not used to consuming it. If you have caffeine regularly, your body is likely to adjust.

Related: Not getting enough sleep? See why runners suffer from a lack of sleep and how to improve it.

What dose of caffeine is an acceptable/safe range before a run?

You should aim to drink 100-200 mg of caffeine before your run. This is equivalent to 1-2 cups of coffee or tea. If you exceed this amount of caffeine before you head out for your run, you’re much more likely to experience the negative side effects of caffeine.

What are the signs of drinking too much caffeine before a run?

If you’re experiencing the negative side effects of caffeine during your run–such as jitters or a stomachache–you’ve probably had too much. Here are a few other signs that you’ve had too much caffeine:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Irregular heartbeat/increased heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramping

If you experience these symptoms, try having less caffeine before your next run.

Related: Why Does Runner’s Diarrhea Happen?

Does caffeine help reduce cramps when running?

Unfortunately, caffeine won’t reduce cramps while you’re running. In fact, consuming excessive amounts of caffeine may even cause muscle cramps. Hot weather and dehydration are other factors that may cause muscle cramping, especially when combined with large amounts of caffeine.

Related: Why Do Runners Get Cramps? Prevention/Treatments of Leg Cramps

Does caffeine help you focus your mental thoughts when running?

Yes, caffeine can help you focus your mental thoughts when running. Studies have proven that caffeine can enhance levels of alertness. When you’re more alert, you’re better able to focus. Drinking caffeine before you run, then, may help you focus on your rhythm and stride rather than the issues waiting for you at home.

Will caffeine make me urinate more often when on a run?

There is much debate on whether caffeine is a diuretic. Runners are commonly told not to drink coffee before their run since it may increase trips to the bathroom mid-run. This study finally offered a scientifically-proven answer to this question.

According to the study, caffeine can be a mild diuretic. However, this is only true when large amounts of caffeine are ingested: at least 250-300 mg, which is similar to the amount found in 2-3 cups of coffee. Lower levels of caffeine ingestion showed no diuretic effects whatsoever.

You shouldn’t have to worry about caffeine causing you to need to urinate more often during your run so long as you watch how much you consume.

Is drinking caffeine dangerous before a run?

Drinking caffeine before a run can be dangerous if you consume excessive amounts. Drinking too much caffeine can cause negative side effects such as an increased heart rate, diarrhea, nausea, and increased urination frequency. It can also lead to muscle cramps and an upset stomach.

None of these symptoms are things you want to experience during your run, so make sure to watch your caffeine intake before you head out.

Best sources of caffeine before a run

While coffee is one of the best-known sources of caffeine, it’s not the only choice. If you don’t like the taste of coffee, there are plenty of other options on the market. Here are some of the best sources of caffeine you can consume before a run:

  • Caffeine gel. Much like energy gel packs, you can buy packets of caffeine gel. These are easy to rip open and eat before you head out the door. Some GU and Huma Energy Packets have caffeine added to the gel solution. Make sure you read the packet carefully to make sure you don’t over-consuming too much caffeine. Check out my in-depth energy packet review.
  • Caffeine pills. These pills are calorie-free and may either be formulated with synthetic or natural caffeine.
  • Pre-workout powder. Many pre-workout products have caffeine in them (along with workout-boosters like taurine and creatine) to help give you a boost before your workout.
  • Energy drinks. While energy drinks can provide you with caffeine before your run, you’ll want to check the other ingredients. Make sure there’s little to no sugar in it to ensure you’re giving your body healthy fuel.
  • Caffeinated gum. While the caffeine content varies from 10-100 mg of caffeine per piece, caffeinated gum is an easy way to add caffeine to your routine.

You can also buy caffeinated jelly beans, but these aren’t the healthiest source of caffeine, as sugar is among the first ingredients.

Wondering if you should drink caffeine before your run? Find out in this in-depth article about caffeine’s effects on running performance.



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