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Could a Pre-Workout Coffee Help You Burn Fat While Exercising?

A new study shows a link between drinking coffee and how much fat you’re burning when you exercise. Coffee could be the key to taking your workouts to the next level.

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Coffee is a beloved morning beverage, and its caffeine content also makes it a boon to your fitness routine. Caffeine is one of the most commonly used stamina- and performance-enhancing substances. Past research has shown that caffeine can increase your speed and power output so you can train longer; it’s even been found to reduce exhaustion during vigorous exercise. Other studies have discovered that caffeine can give you a boost in performance and focus while you’re working up a sweat.

Now, research shows that sipping a strong cup of coffee before your workout can give you a fat-burning boost too. 

A strong cup of coffee can make your workouts more effective

A small scientific study conducted at the University of Granada examined the potential effect of caffeine on fat oxidation, or fat burning, during exercise. Researchers put 15 men to the test, asking them to exercise once a week for one month. Before every workout, the participants took 3 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight (or 3 mg/kg). That’s equivalent to a strong shot of espresso.

The results showed that caffeine made a significant difference in fat oxidation. Consuming caffeine 30 minutes before a workout increased participants’ maximum fat burning, allowing them to burn beyond their typical amount.

Why does caffeine do this? Caffeine actually raises your core body temperature, which in turn increases the amount of calories you’re burning. It also kickstarts the production of adrenaline and breaks down adipose tissue (or fat), revving up all of the key fat-burning processes. 

So, when you pair your workouts with caffeine, you’ll be able to combine the natural fat burning that happens during exercise with caffeine’s extra boost. 

You can also take caffeine in any form before you get your workout started. Coffee is a great choice, especially if you’re opting for a strong brew. Just keep in mind that the researchers tested caffeine at 3 mg/kg, so you’ll want to stick to that amount if you’re hoping to achieve the same level of fat burning. Typically, your average 8 ounce cup of brewed coffee contains 96 milligrams of caffeine.

Try working out in the afternoon for the best results

In addition to testing the effects of caffeine on fat oxidation, researchers also looked at whether the time of day mattered. They tested the study’s participants both in the morning and in the afternoon, scheduling workouts at 8 am and 5 pm. 

Interestingly, afternoon workouts showed even more fat-burning potential. Caffeine had a positive effect across the board, but participants’ fat oxidation increased even more when they paired their caffeine with a 5 pm workout. Even when participants fasted for the same amount of time before exercising, they burned fat at different rates. A morning workout increased participants’ maximum fat oxidation rate by 10.7 percent, while an afternoon workout led to a whopping 29 percent increase.

Researchers involved in the study noted that previously,  exercising in the morning on an empty stomach was thought to be the best way to maximize fat burning. However, based on the latest findings, you may want to workout later in the day, with a little coffee in your system.

In order to maximize your coffee’s fat-burning potential, you’ll want to finish your cup about half an hour before you plan to exercise. And, if possible, schedule your workouts for the afternoon rather than the morning. Worried that drinking strong coffee late in the day will lead to sleeplessness later? Stick with a morning sweat session, so you can get a fat-burning boost without disrupting your sleep.

It’s also important to keep previous research on caffeine and exercise in mind. A 2019 review found that caffeine’s positive effects tend to be more prominent when you choose aerobic exercise. While it can give you a power boost during anaerobic exercise, like running sprints or a HIIT workout, you’ll likely see the biggest fat-burning increase with aerobic moves.

With this combination of timing, coffee and type of exercise, the benefits of getting active can be even greater. 

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