Back to the Blog
Coffee for athletes - Jordan lifts weights after drinking Brilliant Raccoon

The benefits of coffee for athletes have been studied extensively and experts agree that coffee and sports are an important pairing. Drinking coffee is an important part of everyday life – not just for the great taste but also for the benefits that the components found in coffee have on our bodies. It also has an impact on your fitness training.

Whether it’s a black coffee before a workout or an espresso, we think the most important thing it to enjoy your pre sports cuppa. But we know that you want to understand more about the science so we have worked with Adrian Hodgson, BSc, PhD, who has a wealth of experience in sports nutrition, metabolism and physiology. He has conducted specialist research into sports, caffeine, coffee and tea and he has kindly written this piece to help explain more.

Dr Hodgson’s original research has looked at the effect of tea and coffee for athletes in terms of altering the use of fat as an energy source, as well as the impact on exercise performance. He has published his research in a number of peer reviewed journals, is an invited lecturer at a number of Universities and he is the Performance Nutritionist at Glanbia Performance Nutrition. In other words, he knows his stuff!

So if you want to know more about the benefits of coffee for athletes or if you exercise for health, performance or enjoyment, please read on…


By Adrian Hodgson BSc, PhD

Caffeine in coffee

Coffee contains a bunch of different components. The most well known is caffeine and it’s this that makes coffee so appealing to those who lead an active lifestyle, exercise or compete in sport.

The reason being is that caffeine has been shown to improve how our muscles contract during exercise. This is through delaying the onset of fatigue as well as increasing power production when performed at both moderate and high intensities. At the same time, caffeine directly targets the brain which improves motivation, concentration and focus. Therefore both physical and mental performance is improved with caffeine. This means that caffeine has far reaching benefits for all exercise and competitive sports that may include endurance, speed, power, strength and mental focus.

Whether you undertake exercise for health, performance or enjoyment, exercising harder for longer will mean better improvements to your fitness, physique and how you feel. Using coffee is one way of getting the most from exercise.

The drinking part

So how exactly can you enjoy your coffee and get the most out of every run, cycle or sporting event?

Two important things to remember is the dose of caffeine and the time before exercise it is consumed.

For shorter lighter exercise, your aim is to try and consume 1-2 mg of caffeine for every kilogram of body weight. This means if you were to weigh 80 kg you should consume 80-160 mg of caffeine. For harder more intense exercise, such as going to the gym, doing interval training, playing a rugby, netball or football game or going out on the bike for 3 hours, more caffeine may be needed. Here your target is 2-4 mg of caffeine for every kilogram of body weight. This means if you weigh 80 kg the optimum would be 160-320 mg of caffeine.

But you may be thinking, caffeine on its own must be better than coffee? This was the thinking some years ago but recent research has shown that coffee is as effective as caffeine when consumed before exercise.

Molly step up with Impact coffee starter set and coffee mug

This is all well and good but how much coffee do you need to drink?

The way coffee is grown, roasted and brewed all alter the caffeine content of a coffee and unlike instant coffee, the ability of increasing caffeine while maintaining a good taste is just one of the many benefits of drinking freshly roasted beans.

What’s the best coffee for athletes?

Get in the Mood's range of coffee has been blended with different beans to deliver specific flavours. All their fresh coffee provides a quality taste with the ability to consume higher amounts of caffeine and Brilliant Raccoonis created specifically to appeal to the active individual.

The beans which make up Brilliant Raccoon'sblend have been selected because they have a natural richness and depth without being bitter, and when roasted and blended together in a specific way deliver an impactful and splendid caffeine-rich coffee that will give you a pure energy boost. 100% natural with no additives, this Arabica blend also contains antioxidants.

How much caffeine in an espresso?

Whilst many people assume that to drink a ‘strong’ espresso will provide more caffeine than a medium filter, this is often not the case as not only is this dependent on the bean, the quantity of caffeine per cup will be greater in a longer drink than in a shot. Also brewing your coffee for longer than 5 minutes, whether using a cafetière or filter machine will increase the caffeine content to 100-200 mg per cup.

So this means for a well brewed coffee, consuming 1-2 cups at least 60 minutes before going out to exercise would be recommended. Whereas 3-4 cups may be optimum when performing harder exercise. Selecting a higher dose of caffeine before exercising may also be recommended if you regularly consume coffee or caffeinated beverages day to day, but for those more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, it may be sensible to start with lower quantities.

Using these simple steps will allow you to enjoy the great taste of coffee, but also gives you a convenient option in getting the most out of your active lifestyle.

Dr Adrian Hodgson BSc, PhD

Follow Adrian on Twitter

Supporting references

1. Tarnopolsky M, Cupido C (2000) Caffeine potentiates low frequency skeletal muscle force in habitual and nonhabitual caffeine consumers. Journal of applied physiology 89: 1719-1724.

2. Koppelstaetter F, Poeppel TD, Siedentopf CM, Ischebeck A, Verius M, Haala I, Mottaghy FM, Rhomberg P, Golaszewski S, Gotwald T, Lorenz IH, Kolbitsch C, Felber S, Krause BJ (2008) Does caffeine modulate verbal working memory processes? An fMRI study. Neuroimage 39: 492-499.

3. Hodgson AB, Randell RK, Jeukendrup AE (2013) The metabolic and performance effects of caffeine compared to coffee during endurance exercise. PloS one 8: e59561.

4. Burke LM (2008) Caffeine and sports performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 33: 1319-1334.

Please remember it is always advisable to consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before undertaking any type of physical or increased exercise, and/or consuming coffee in relation to that exercise. Get in the Mood and Dr Adrian Hodgson are providing this information for the interest of readers and accept no responsibility for how the reader interprets or acts on this.

Thank you Jordan Turner, PT, Boxer and Breath Coach; and Molly Little, Sports Soft Tissue Therapist & CrossFitter for your photo help!

Updated from a post first published on 5th August 2016