When it comes to improving fitness and health through physical exercise, they say showing up is half the battle won. Health and fitness enthusiasts of all ages and proficiency levels will invariably see their allotted exercise time approaching and doubt their physical or mental capacity to begin.

If you have ever felt like this, you are not alone and you can expect it will be a regular hurdle to be faced and surmounted. Luckily, there are some solutions to gaining a measure of power and fortitude to take that first step and facilitate a proper routine even if you feel your energy stores depleted.

Pre-workout supplements are the most common go-to remedy for increasing physical capacity and performance during exercise. But, there is a growing population who extols the benefits of everyone’s favorite morning brew for banishing fatigue and empowering physical exercises.

So, what’s the best option for you? In the following article we will take a closer look at the science and biochemistry behind these two beneficial workout-boosting beverages.

Benefits of Coffee as a Pre-workout

cafe americano

Coffee is a highly-popular beverage favored around the world for its robust flavor and caffeine content. Coffee before workouts will affect everyone differently. Some people have a natural genetic resistance to the organic compounds (1) – following are some of the effects coffee can have for exercise programs.

Antioxidants

Coffee contains powerful antioxidants that can help to counter the effects of oxidative stress that comes from energy conversion in the body. When the balance of free radicals to antioxidants becomes too great, the damage can cause all types of attrition to the skin, nerves and other body processes.

Coffee Might Stimulate Thermogenesis

Studies suggest that a cup of coffee can improve the body’s capacity to metabolize stored fat and contribute to weight loss efforts. Researchers observed caffeine contributing to the metabolism of certain types of fat in various tests (2).

Improved Alertness and Mental Energy

Inside the body, caffeine works to block adenosine from reaching its receptors (3). Because adenosine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces nervous activity and creates tiredness, the central nervous system is brought back online with vigor and acuity. Adrenaline is also produced as part of the awakened nervous system and begins firing up the muscles and heart for increased activity(4).

Impacts Pleasure Experience

Caffeine makes you feel good, this is because it can modulate the dopaminergic action which presides over pleasure and motivation(5). Sometimes it is the mind that needs convincing, whereas the body is already juiced and ready to go. Caffeine can increase dopamine and improves its important role in motivating action and maintaining that “eyes-on-the-prize” determination required for achievement(6).

Spikes Blood Pressure and Increases Heart Rate

An increase in blood pressure is something that those with a tendency toward hypertension should be mindful of when consuming caffeine (7) at any time of the day, but especially before an exercise routine. High-blood pressure can lead to a variety of complications including systemic damage and the risk of heart attack.

Pre-Workout Ingredients for Improving Exercise

preworkout ingredients

Performance

Pre-workout supplements contain a variety of organic and synthetic compounds designed for improving energy levels, and maximizing the result from an exercise program. Different pre-workouts contain different ingredients and a different set of results.

Caffeine is a common ingredient in most of the best pre-workouts for the variety of reasons listed above. In addition to the energy boosting and mentally focusing benefits of caffeine, here are some other common pre-workout ingredients and their purported benefits.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine is one of the most popular performance enhancers on the market and monohydrate is its optimal presentation. In addition to enhancing energy levels (ATP levels) and improving capacity for physical performance (increased force of muscle contraction), creatine has been studied for its amazing benefits to improving neurological diseases and features potential benefits for bone mass regeneration(8).

L-Citrulline Malate

L-citrulline is an amino acid that is produced in the body and can also be found in fruits. L-citrulline has many implications for the health due to its capacity to promote the creation of proteins needed for muscle mass and also improves the flow of blood through the blood vessels bringing vital oxygen to the muscles and reducing blood pressure(9).

In addition to increasing exercise performance, l-citrulline is a treatment for Alzheimer’s, hypertension, and sickle-cell disease. The “malate” refers to the malic acid added to the compound in some supplemental forms, this addition increases l-citrulline bioavailability.

BCAAs

The branch chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) are essential, however the body doesn’t produce these three important amino acids locally, they must be sourced from food or be supplemented in some way, like a preworkout.

BCAAs could prevent muscle fatigue, contribute to muscle mass and reduce the discomforts of strained tired muscles(10). It is however important to get sufficient proteins in your diet if these amino acids are to be effective.

Beta-Alanine

This amino acid is produced locally and is mainly beneficial due to its capacity to produce carnosine which helps to break up acid build up in the muscles. During long hours of intense physical exercise, lactic acid builds up and cause muscles to tire, carnosine may help relieve this fatigue. Women and vegetarians have less carnosine available in their body and may stand more to gain from this supplement(11).

So, Coffee or Pre-Workout?

In the end, the choice you make for the best pre-workout booster for your needs will depend on you. Here are some things to consider:

Coffee

This all natural drink is pleasant and energizing and suitable for prolonged use. Coffee drinking is good for the heart, fights cancers, and can protect against strokes when enjoyed in moderation.

Coffee can also help to reduce the appetite which is really important for those who get hungry in the middle of a routine. When obstacles to effective exercise become entirely mental, coffee can empower the mind and the body will follow.

Pre-workouts

These specially designed performance enhancers have powerful benefits to building muscle mass, stimulating weight loss and increasing performance in countless other ways.

Generally, it is not a good idea to continue on a preworkout supplement plan for too long due to their potent effects and sometimes synthetic additives. Nevertheless, for clearing plateaus and pushing performance to its limits, there is nothing quite the same.

FDA Compliance Disclosure

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or any other medical body. All articles on this website are the opinions of their respective authors who do not claim or profess to be medical professionals providing medical advice. We do not attempt to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. This content is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any presented information contained in this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

Sources

  1. Josse AR, Da Costa LA, Campos H, El-Sohemy A (2012). Associations between polymorphisms in the AHR and CYP1A1-CYP1A2 gene regions and habitual caffeine consumption, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96(3):665-71
  2. Mundell, E. J. (2019, June 28). Coffee might be your go-to brew for weight loss. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sc-health-coffee-weight-loss-0703-20190628-kgxi3hulsbfjdjjrdkmznudrwq-story.html
  3. Ribeiro, J. A., & Sebastião, A. M. (2010, April 14). Caffeine and adenosine. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20164566
  4. Yamada, Y., Nakazato, Y., & Ohga, A. (1989). The mode of action of caffeine on catecholamine release from perfused adrenal glands of cat. British journal of pharmacology98(2), 351–356. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.1989.tb12603.x
  5. Volkow, N. D., Wang, G. J., Logan, J., Alexoff, D., Fowler, J. S., Thanos, P. K., … Tomasi, D. (2015). Caffeine increases striatal dopamine D2/D3 receptor availability in the human brain. Translational psychiatry5(4), e549. doi:10.1038/tp.2015.46
  6. Asociación RUVID. (2013, January 10). Dopamine regulates the motivation to act, study shows. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130110094415.htm
  7. Geethavani, G., Rameswarudu, M., & Rameshwari, R. (2014). Effect of Caffeine on Heart Rate and Blood Pressure. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, 4(2), 1–2. Retrieved from http://www.ijsrp.org
  8. Creatine Benefits. Retrieved from http://creatine-monohydrate.org/creatine-benefits.htm
  9. Bergkamp, D. (2018, August 3). L-citrulline. Retrieved from https://aminoacidstudies.org/l-citrulline/
  10. Churchward‐Venne, T. A., Burd, N. A., Mitchell, C. J., West, D. W., Philp, A. , Marcotte, G. R., Baker, S. K., Baar, K. and Phillips, S. M. (2012), Supplementation of a suboptimal protein dose with leucine or essential amino acids: effects on myofibrillar protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in men. The Journal of Physiology, 590: 2751-2765. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2012.228833
  11. Caruso, J., Charles, J., Unruh, K., Giebel, R., Learmonth, L., & Potter, W. (2012). Ergogenic effects of β-alanine and carnosine: proposed future research to quantify their efficacy. Nutrients4(7), 585–601. doi:10.3390/nu4070585
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