Caffeine + Exercise: A Winning Combo?

caffeine and exercise: a winning comboMany of us start out our day with a hot cup of coffee to get going. But have you ever considered how caffeine may affect your workouts?

Do you already use caffeine-containing supplements to boost your performance?

Let’s take a look at caffeine’s role in exercise and how best to use can benefit your performance and avoid its downfalls.

Benefit 1: More alertness

Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound found in many of our favorite foods and beverages: coffee, tea and chocolate to name a few.

Caffeine is a stimulant and has been demonstrated to improve physical strength and endurance, as well as alertness and wakefulness. Regular use does lead to tolerance, so taking time away from use may be necessary at times to continue to reap the rewards.

Benefit 2: Longer performance

Caffeine supplementation increases endurance exercise performance significantly. As measured by time to exhaustion, caffeine reliably elicits 1.2-1.4 times longer performance.

Additionally, caffeine can reduce the perception of effort, allowing you to do more mileage without necessarily feeling more tired.

Benefit 3: Better power

The benefits don’t stop with aerobic exercise – caffeine holds promise for weightlifters and those participating in anaerobic pursuits as well.

One study in sprinters noted that caffeine resulted in reduced sprinting times. Power output is increased during caffeine supplementation as well, measured in one-rep max tests.

Benefit 4: Less soreness

Caffeine has also been demonstrated to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) when taken before particularly intense workouts. This could all help you set a new PR in the weight room or on the competition floor.

Risks of too much caffeine

So how much caffeine should you consume to see the benefits? Most studies seeing benefits to exercise without side effects use 3 mg/kg of body weight. For the average man and woman, this works out to about 260 and 210 mg, respectively. This equates to about one medium-large sized coffee.

More is not better, however, and too much caffeine may result in anxiousness, impaired sleep, or even heart problems. Use caution and start at a low dose to assess your tolerance. Ask your doctor if it is safe for you to use caffeine if you have existing health problems, or experience any symptoms during use.

In conclusion, when used appropriately caffeine can be a useful tool for those looking to enhance their physical performance in the gym or on the field.

Drew Hicks, Sanford Sports Science Institute dietetic intern

Learn more about Sports Nutrition in our Performance Lab >


Bell DG, Mclellan TM. Exercise endurance 1, 3, and 6 h after caffeine ingestion in caffeine users and nonusers. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2002;93(4):1227-1234. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00187.2002.

Hadjicharalambous M, et al. Influence of caffeine on perception of effort, metabolism and exercise performance following a high-fat meal. J Sports Sci. (2006)

Glaister M, et al. Caffeine supplementation and multiple sprint running performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (2008)

Astorino TA, Rohmann RL, Firth K. Effect of caffeine ingestion on one-repetition maximum muscular strength. Eur J Appl Physiol. (2008)