Energy and endurance
Caffeine, the key energizing ingredient in coffee, works by blocking the neurochemical adenosine from binding to receptors. Adenosine is partially responsible for inhibiting your nervous system and making you feel sleepy, so drinking caffeine can help stop that “depressant” effect and make you more alert. The resulting energizing effect is actually what classifies caffeine as a stimulant! Because of this, coffee is often used by athletes as an ergogenic aid to boost both energy levels and athletic performance.
Coffee might also help you last longer as an athlete! This has been tested with several different athletic activities, including running and cycling, and researchers have found that caffeine consumption is often positively correlated with increased endurance and/or decreased perception of exhaustion. One hypothesis supports the idea that caffeine in coffee stimulates your central nervous system, which lowers how much pain you might feel post-workout. Based on this theory, you could increase endurance and keep up your performance for longer when using caffeine as an aid.
Helps burn fat
Using a caffeinated pre-workout aid could also be good news if you’re looking to lose body fat. While drinking coffee on its own isn’t going to help “burn fat,” caffeine can help speed up your rate of fat oxidation, or the process in which fatty acids are broken down, in response to the right diet and exercise regimen. A study found that pairing a serving size of 3 mg of caffeine with subsequent exercise tests increased fat oxidation in study participants by 29% in the afternoon and 10.7% in the morning. So interestingly enough, you may be able to maximize these fat-burning benefits if you like doing a midday workout by drinking an afternoon coffee!
Besides its focus and stamina-boosting effects, you might also experience gains when you drink coffee after your workout since it can help with the muscle recovery process. Your body generally draws on glucose (or broken-down carbohydrates) in your blood to use as fuel. But under certain circumstances, like high-intensity exercise, your body might also draw from your glycogen stores, a form of glucose stored in your muscles. Once those glycogen stores are depleted they will then need to be replenished as part of your muscle recovery process.
Research suggests that caffeine can help speed up this process. One study compared the rate of glycogen resynthesis between a study group that ate only carbohydrates and a group that paired carbohydrates and caffeine after exhaustive exercise. The researchers found that the group that had both carbohydrates and caffeine in their post-workout recovery meals saw a 66% higher rate of resynthesis when compared to the group that ate carbohydrates alone!
Caffeine isn’t the only star of the show here–coffee itself is also a fairly healthy food when consumed in moderation. Coffee beans are full of polyphenols, or plant-based micronutrients, that play a wide range of beneficial roles in your body like fighting inflammation, minimizing oxidative stress with antioxidants, and even protecting you from increased risk factors for metabolic syndrome and hypertension.