Running can be exhausting, especially if you don’t fuel your body properly with the right nutrition beforehand.
However, people new to running might be curious: should you drink coffee before running?
In this article, I cover all things coffee, so you can gain a better understanding of whether you can or should drink a cup of joe before you run.
Keep reading to find out more.
Should you drink coffee before a half marathon?
Caffeine is known to improve performance, in coffee or otherwise, so it can be useful to drink before half marathons for a number of reasons.
Namely, studies have shown that consuming caffeine before a physical challenge can provide you with a boost of energy and likely helps you to go further and faster than if you weren’t to drink it.
If you’re not a morning person, coffee can significantly improve your mood by energizing you. Running is as much a mental battle as well as a physical one, so if you’re not in the right frame of mind to run a half marathon, then coffee could help with that.
Although there are many benefits to drinking coffee, there are also downsides.
What goes up, must come down, and caffeine crashes usually occur a few hours after you’ve consumed coffee. Although you’re likely to be consuming energy gels and drinks throughout the half marathon to provide yourself with energy, this is something to be mindful of.
Most reputable brands also offer gels and drinks with caffeine already in them, so you may not even need to resort to coffee before a race to get your boost.
Consuming caffeinated gels mid-race can also help you when you’re in those tough spots needing to dig deep, as you don’t often encounter many opportunities to order americanos en route.
Caffeine can be a good stimulant, however, a lot of people can be incredibly sensitive to it. As a half marathon can be quite the undertaking for less experienced runners, if you are an anxious individual, then it might not be the wisest decision to drink coffee before a half marathon.
Caffeine already helps to ‘get things moving’ in terms of your digestion which running can exacerbate, so you should be mindful of this and proceed with caution when it comes to running as far as a half marathon.
Does caffeine help you run faster?
If you’re a regular coffee drinker then you already know that on those days where you feel like you feel a little extra boost of energy, coffee can be great for helping you battle lethargy, and the same can be said for running.
Caffeine is often used by athletes as a pre-workout supplement. Studies of both endurance athletes and sprinters have shown that caffeine can help improve performance.
Alongside this, caffeine boosts your mental alertness, improves your mood, and boosts your desire to run hard.
This is because caffeine reduces a runner’s perception of effort, which makes running fast feel easier than it usually would, meaning that it can indeed help you run faster.
However, while coffee might enhance your performance, the most common misperception about caffeine and running is that consuming caffeine can replace smart training.
It might sound obvious, but you should only supplement your training with coffee and other caffeine drinks, not substitute your training for them.
Although caffeine may decrease your perception of effort, it cannot substantially increase your pace or make the run feel effortless.
It is also important to mention that consuming too much caffeine on race day can cause the shakes, dizziness, and nervousness that may detract your focus.
To ensure that you’re as sharp as you can be on race day, it’s not recommended to consume more caffeine than you’re used to just because you think it’ll make you faster.
I always recommend doing your research, and if you’re interested in supplementing your training with coffee, then experiment with it during your training - don’t leave it until race day!
You could end up performing much worse than you’d hoped if you consume too much, and all of your hard work will have been wasted.
Is coffee good for runners?
Coffee is known to have performance-enhancing qualities, yes. However, the answer to this question is likely to differ depending on who you ask as it is subject to change.
As I’ve touched on, coffee can be anxiety-inducing for anxious individuals. Caffeine is a stimulant and studies have shown that about 3-6 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight is all you require to see the benefits.
Higher doses don’t do more to improve performance, but can actually have the opposite effect and cause negative side effects.
That being said, a few of the adverse effects of caffeine can include heart palpitations, dizziness, and feeling shaky.
As a result, then, this can affect a runner’s ability to run if they are easily affected by high levels of caffeine or simply consume more than they usually would for a race.
As a runner, you know yourself better than anyone, so it is important that you take your own personal experiences into consideration despite being met with a wave of benefits to drinking coffee before running.
Although there is a lot of positive research that surrounds drinking coffee if you’re a runner, you know yourself best.
One size doesn’t fit all, and just because coffee is good for other runners doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be good for you, especially if you already experience bouts of anxiety before a race or are prone to any other side effects that too much caffeine can induce.
What works for others may not work for everyone, but if you’re curious about trying coffee before a race, a perfect opportunity to trial it is in your training.
This will allow you to experience what drinking coffee is like before you run, but you won’t have the added pressure of the race in your mind.
Have fun and be safe!