This Common Drug Makes Working Out Easier & More Fun

Photographed by Winnie Au.
A version of this article originally appeared on Shape. As you probably know, caffeine is one of America's favorite drugs. While some might cite the negatives — headaches, poor sleep — it actually offers quite a few benefits, too, particularly when it comes to exercise, it turns out. Caffeine makes you more alert, focused, and, as any morning-latte addict will attest, it gives you a serious energy boost. But few realize how it can boost your workouts, too. While it might seem like water is your best bet, Shape spoke with several experts about how a pre-workout latte not only is unlikely to negatively affect your hydration status, it can also help you feel more alert, so you can push through a tough workout a little more easily (and comfortably) than you would otherwise. How so? Caffeine disrupts the pain signals your muscles send to your brain, so you feel better during and after your workout and you're able to exercise longer and harder, Matthew S. Ganio, PhD, an associate professor of exercise science, explained to Shape. Related: How Coffee Helps You Stick To Your Long-Term Fitness Goals Eric T. Trexler, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told Shape that the best advice is to drink your coffee 30 to 90 minutes before working out. Since caffeine's effects usually peak 45 to 60 minutes after hitting your bloodstream, this will allow you to reap the caffeine's energizing effects just as you're warming up. As for how much, Dr. Ganio, PhD, says to "aim to take 1.35 to 2.7 milligrams of caffeine per pound of body weight," prior to your workout. To put that in perspective, a 140-pound person should drink between 189 and 378 milligrams: about two cups of home-brewed coffee or one 12-ounce cup from Starbucks. Related: 6 Unconventional Ways To Treat Sore Muscles
Of course, there are a few factors that will keep caffeine from being a total fitness hit. Bear in mind that you might not have a huge tolerance for caffeine if you don't consume it regularly, so slamming a latte before your next SoulCycle class might instead have the opposite effect of making you feel shaky or just off. Also, you might have to change your pre-workout meal, as well. "Consuming carbohydrates with caffeine can blunt the effects," said Philip J. Prins, PhD, of Grove City College. Instead, he said try snacking on hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, or nuts. And be aware that you might feel more of the caffeine's effects depending on your workout. Most studies look at how it benefits endurance exercises, like long-distance running, while less is known about how caffeine affects high-intensity training. But if you're mainly a runner, brace yourself — one study from Grove City College found that drinking 160 milligrams of caffeine improved 5K times by about 30 seconds. While no one can say that it's the magic formula for a killer workout, you should feel free to grab a cup of Joe before hitting the gym if you wish.

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Shape for more on how to get the most out of your workout.

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