Coffee Before Cycling: The 4 Performance Benefits (And 5 Drawbacks)

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Many people start their day with a cup of coffee to wake themselves up, but does slurping a cup of coffee before cycling give you any benefits?

Of course, the caffeine content in a cup of coffee can give you a boost that will enhance your performance during a ride. This is a fact recognized by many athletes and has been proven in many scientific studies.

But what does the caffeine hit from a cup of coffee actually do? And are there any downsides to drinking coffee before cycling?

In this article, we will cover:

  • The Myths And Misconceptions Of Drinking Coffee
  • 4 Benefits Of Drinking Coffee Before Cycling
  • 5 Disadvantages Of Caffeine For Cyclists

Let’s wake up to the facts about coffee and cycling!

Coffee Before Cycling

The Myths And Misconceptions Of Drinking Coffee

You may have heard of a few unsettling things about drinking coffee in your daily life. While there are some manageable downsides, some of the more severe negatives said about coffee have been debunked by lots of research.

For example, many people regard coffee as a diuretic, which means it dehydrates you, as it makes you need to pee more. But the truth is that a moderate amount of coffee has no more effect than the same volume of water. This fact comes from various studies, but of course, the more coffee you drink, the more you will need to go to the toilet.

With this in mind, be careful of how much coffee you drink before your ride, as you may upset the rest of your group with several unscheduled comfort breaks.

But, just like everything else in life, it is best to keep your caffeine intake in moderation. Your body won’t thank you for guzzling 10 cups of coffee a day.

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4 Benefits Of Drinking Coffee Before Cycling

There has been a lot of research into how coffee affects endurance and performance. The studies have all revealed that it is perfectly safe to drink coffee before cycling.

Several studies have concluded that drinking up to three cups of coffee before cycling gives you extra energy and strength and helps you burn more fat. Let’s go into the benefits in a little more detail!

#1: Coffee Makes You More Focussed

Caffeine is an excellent pick me up for when you are feeling sleepy or tired due to a build-up of adenosine. This is because caffeine replaces adenosine, boosting your energy levels instantly.

Once your energy spikes, you get a nice dose of adrenaline into your system. The adrenaline is perfect for cycling as your heart pumps faster and your airways and circulation system open up.

In addition to this, adrenaline causes the brain to produce dopamine, which helps get us motivated to go for a ride.

Furthermore, you can experience the effects of your coffee for up to an hour after drinking it, so you have plenty of time to take advantage of its power.

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#2: Coffee Increases Your Strength

It may surprise you that coffee increases the strength of your muscles. Studies have revealed that if you consume 300mg of caffeine, which is about 3 cups of coffee, your muscles will experience a short-term benefit.

This is excellent news for riding bikes, as you use your glutes, legs, and core the most. These are your body’s largest muscles, and they benefit from the coffee stimulating your central nervous system, enhancing your blood flow, and producing hormones. It also engages your muscle fibers, so they are ready to go when you start riding.

With this in mind, you may benefit from a coffee before cycling on big days. You should get a little more strength in your legs to power up a hill or ride for longer.

However, bear in mind that your strength will only be enhanced by 1 to 2%. And if you consistently drink lots of coffee, your long-term health can be impacted.

#3: Coffee Helps You Ride For Longer

Caffeine is classed as a performance-enhancing supplement, but it hasn’t been banned by any professional sports governing bodies.

When it comes to endurance, caffeine can enhance your output by 5%. This is because caffeine increases your nitric oxide levels, which your body needs for endurance.

Nitric oxide widens your blood vessels by relaxing their inner muscles. This increases blood circulation, delivering more blood to your muscles giving them more nutrients and oxygen.

#4: Coffee Enhances Your Fat Burning Ability

Cycling burns your body’s store of glucose, and once your glucose has been used up, your body will resort to its fat to fuel your ride.

Depending on how intense your ride is, it can take two to three hours before you get into the fat-burning zone. But drinking coffee before cycling can increase your chances of burning fat during a ride.

Caffeine blocks the cells that only burn glucose, so the body resorts to fat as its source of energy. This means that coffee will make your body burn glucose and fat at the same time.

Therefore, you start burning fat earlier in your ride, and you don’t use all your glycogen levels too soon. This leaves it in reserve for the more challenging sections of your ride.

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5 Disadvantages Of Caffeine For Cyclists

All this sounds great so far, but there are some downsides to drinking coffee before cycling too.

#1: You Can ‘Crash’

By this, we don’t mean crash your bike, but you can experience a coffee crash. A few hours after drinking your coffee, you can start to feel tired as the initial dopamine and adrenaline from the caffeine subsides.

This is something you should bear in mind during a long ride. You will need to fight through it or consume something else to see you to the end.

#2: Your Body ACCLIMATIZES To Your Caffeine Intake

The issue with relying on drinking coffee before cycling is that your body adjusts to the caffeine level. Just like any drug, you will need to take more to feel the same effects after a while.

With this in mind, you need to control how much coffee you drink and save it for when you really need it. If you don’t think you need a coffee, don’t drink one out of habit. Instead, go for decaf or a herbal tea.

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#3: Coffee Has Calories

OK, a black coffee with no sugar isn’t exactly going to get you fat, but if you prefer coffee with milk (or any other add-ons), you should expect a bump in calorie intake.

A Starbucks latte can be 190 calories before you even start adding on the extra options. That said, you may benefit from a few extra calories before a ride if it’s going to be a long one!

Still, there are better things to consume than a bucket of milky mocha shortbread pumpkin latte with whipped cream to fuel your ride!

#4: You Can Time Your Coffee Poorly

You must perfectly time your coffee before cycling. If you get it wrong, you can get a coffee crash at the worst time.

Timing your pre-ride cuppa can be tricky, but many people suggest that you experience the benefits during the first hour after your drink.

#5: Unexpected Toilet Breaks

This is related to timing your morning coffee correctly. If you ride first thing in the morning, you don’t want to need to go to the bathroom after you have left home.

Make sure you leave a short break before hitting the road. This should allow time to get things moving, so you are not caught short with no bathroom in sight.

It is still unclear why coffee makes us need to go to the toilet, but don’t be surprised if you need to go 20 minutes after your coffee.

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Now You Know All About Drinking Coffee Before Cycling

We have debunked some myths and highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of drinking coffee before cycling. But you know your body best and what works for you.

If you like to drink coffee before cycling or during a ride, do it! Pedaling to a cafe and back or visiting one on your favorite loop is a sociable thing to do. Many people regard it as part of cycling, and a slice of cake with your coffee is a nice treat to have earned.

But when it comes to social rides, don’t plan your caffeine intake based on how it will enhance your performance. Drink it because you enjoy it!

Enjoyed this article? Learn more from the BikeTips experts below!

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Tom is an experienced freelance cycling journalist and mountain biking expert who competed nationally in the junior ranks. Now based in the world-famous mountain biking destination of Morzine in the French Alps, Tom spends his summers shredding off-road trails by bike and his winters on the same mountains on a snowboard.

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