Caffeine can be found in many forms with the creation of energy drinks, supplements and the ever so popular form of coffee and teas. Before deciding if you should use caffeine before a workout, understanding the basics of how it works will be beneficial.

How it works

Adenosine is created in the brain and attaches to the adenosine receptors and as a result, nerve cell activity is slowed down to create the feeling of drowsiness. Caffeine is an antagonist to that process and binds to the adenosine receptors. The nerve cells can’t identify caffeine, therefore, masking adenosine but having the opposite effect and speeding up nerve cells. Additionally, it stimulates your body's sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) releasing adrenaline and increase alertness (1).

Workout Benefits

As seen from how caffeine affects the mind and body, the popular use of caffeine is obvious but what are the benefits towards working out?

  • Increased alertness.
  • Increased mood. 
  • Increased focus (2).
  • Potential to increase workload and effort (3,4). 
  • Potential to increased endurance (4,5). 
  • Potential higher fat oxidation during exercise (6,7). 

The potential benefits of ingesting caffeine prior to a workout are mainly advantageous, however, it should be strategically used, here’s why!


A tolerance can happen within 5-6 days of moderate intake (4) and increasing the dose every so often will eventually cause a ceiling effect. Negative effects are generally the outcomes rather than positive ones such as anxiety or tension by pushing caffeine ingestion to high (2). The half life of caffeine can be potentially up to 9 hours, therefore consider the timing of caffeine ingestion very closely as sleep disruption is a possibility (8).

A nonuser of caffeine should start on the lower end of intake such as 1-2 mg per kg with an increase when a tolerance begins to form. Using caffeine should not be relied upon as consistent use will cause a thought of need rather than want, but the option of caffeine ingestion is a good option to have if an individual is feeling tired or simply wants to improve performance. An intake of up to 4mg per kg of caffeine has shown to have positive performance effects (90kg person x 4 = 360mg caffeine) (3).


Caffeine is a great tool to have but should not be overused, but rather strategically used. The response to caffeine is entirely individual, therefore, monitoring your response is important in considering what your caffeine intake should be.