Is Coffee the Best Pre Workout Supplement?

Power Coffee

Getting me to do anything before my morning coffee is like trying to get a toddler to eat asparagus. It just ain’t gonna happen. But since I almost always schedule my workouts right after breakfast, is my daily fix sending me into overdrive at the gym? Could coffee be the best pre workout supplement?

I’ve recently noticed a lot of articles about caffeine and workout enhancement cropping up on the internet. Many claim that you burn more calories if you down a cup of joe before hitting the gym. That sounds great! I’d much rather sip delicious coffee made from Fair Trade beans than choke down the chemical sh** storm and fake sugars that make up most pre workout supplements. But what about hydration? I’ve spent my entire adult life believing that coffee is dehydrating due to its diuretic effect (when you have to pee 87 times an hour and in the car, always in the car). Is it worth it to torch those extra cals if I’m going to spend the day totally wiped from dehydration?

Truth in the Hype

Turns out that buzz you feel actually helps you to burn around 15 percent more calories per workout. A recent study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that exercisers who ingested 4.5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight – that’s 12 ounces of coffee for a 150 lb woman – burned more calories during an hour-long cardio sesh than those who only received a placebo. Twelve ounces is the size of a small (tall, *eyes roll*) coffee from Starbucks, an amount that most of us require every morning just to be able to form full sentences. The additional calorie expenditure is due to the extra energy costs of ventilation. That basically means you feel extra jazzy, work harder, breathe harder, and shred more calories. What’s not to like? Boil up the water, boys, I’m going to coffee town!

Natural High

Certified Nutritionist and owner of, Dylan Shenk, agrees with the get up and go factor. She says the study and articles “all point to the same conclusion that most athletes and fitness enthusiasts have known for years: caffeine gives us a huge boost of energy, which equals more reps, heavier weights, and the ability to workout for longer periods of time,” she explains. “This makes caffeine a great pre workout supplement for both aerobic and anaerobic workouts, leading not only to improvements in performance but body composition as well.”

Dehydration or Deception

We all know it’s necessary to start every workout fully hydrated and to continue sipping H20 throughout. But if I drink all that coffee, and caffeine causes dehydration, do I need to be pounding a bunch of extra water to balance things out? Another recent study from the University of Birmingham, U.K. says that, when consumed in moderation, coffee is just as hydrating as water. So as long as you keep it under a vat or two, there’s no need to drink extra water to keep safe and comfortable during your workout, right?

Shenk says don’t throw out your trusty water bottle just yet. “Contrary to the study, most people find that coffee does indeed dehydrate them to some degree. My husband was a college wrestler and some of his teammates would use caffeine to flush water out of their bodies in order to make weight before competitions,” she said. “I would still advise some caution and advocate hydrating as much as possible after drinking coffee until more studies are published on this subject.”

Drink it up!

A tasty, two-ingredient, calorie-free beverage that helps you burns extra calories and feel like Superwoman are qualities any self-respecting pre workout supplement would have. It’s basically the best way to lose fat and weight ever. Try a cup of coffee (and plenty of water, too!) before your next workout and see where it takes you!

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Image: Sarah Olive Bergeson