Coffee & Training – An Overview of Caffeine use

A review of caffeine levels in hot beverages in the United Kingdom generally show a broad range of 15– 254 mg caffeine per serving across all high street coffees, including espressos, long blacks, lattes, filter and cappuccino style coffees.

Coffee strength varies depending on the way it is prepared.
Espresso coffee provides the highest concentration (but is served in much smaller quantities), percolated or boiled coffee provide higher concentrations then drip, filter or French press of plunger coffee, but is generally consumed in larger quantities.

But, What does this all mean for the athlete or gym rat who uses a brew or flavored powder to perk themselves up before the gym?

If you want to know exactly how much caffeine you are ingesting, coffee may not be the preferred way to do that, because of the variation in preparation methods and styles – however – Instant coffee could be a way around this because its caffeine content seems pretty constant, as is the method of measuring the servings.

Nescafe Original instant coffee provides 170mg caffeine/5 g of instant coffee, but many people who are interested in their coffee will find themselves rapidly developing a taste for something slightly higher end than granular coffees, a decent midpoint, that rapidly becomes costly might be coffee pods, which put out between 60-90mg per pod (meaning you’d need up to four, for the doses research suggest we need when competing in endurance sports (Read our article on endurnace sports and caffeine dosing research HERE <

So, If you are not too worried about the exact dose and enjoy a good cup of coffee, a double espresso an hour before the start of a race will probably do no harm – and as we also touch on the previously mentioned article; gym sessions

Coffee varies depending on the way it is prepared. Espresso coffee provides the highest concentration (but is served in much smaller quantities), percolated or boiled coffee provide higher concentrations then drip, filter, French press or plunger coffee.

What does this all mean for the athlete? If you want to know exactly how much caffeine you are ingesting, coffee may not be the preferred way, because of the variation. Instant coffee could be a way around this because its caffeine content seems pretty constant.

Caffeine has been shown to improve endurance performance Studies showing this date back to the 1970s and the findings have been confirmed over and over. Caffeine is used frequently by athletes in different amounts and in different forms: tablets, gels, drinks, chewing gum etc. However, the most common form in which it is consumed is coffee. Interestingly, however, when coffee was compared to caffeine ingestion in a study in 1988, caffeine improved performance but coffee did not. Several theories were developed and the one that seemed to stick was a theory that coffee must contain other compounds that counteract the effect of caffeine and make coffee less effective. 

We set out to test this further.

Eight trained cyclists and triathletes performed time trials with caffeine taken as a supplement or consumed as coffee. The selected participants reported a low habitual caffeine consumption (under 300mg per day) and undertook 30 minutes of cycling at about 60% of their maximum power output (an intensity that can be sustained for 3-4 hours), followed by a time trial (all-out exercise) lasting 35-40 min. So the total exercise duration was around 65-70 minutes. This exercise was repeated four times, each time coming into the laboratory after an overnight fast (i.e. before breakfast): once taking caffeine dissolved in water; once having drunk instant coffee; once having drunk decaffeinated coffee; and finally having drunk a placebo (See figure 1). All beverages were consumed one hour before cycling, giving caffeine the chance to reach a peak level in the blood.

The simple take home message from this study is that both caffeine as a supplement or coffee can result in performance improvements. Since the use of coffee seems to be less controversial than the use of caffeine in the form of a supplement, this may be the preferred option for many. Many will also enjoy the taste and smell of a cup of fresh espresso a lot more than that of a supplement.

Hodgson AB, Randell RK, Jeukendrup AE. (2013) The Metabolic and Performance Effects of Caffeine Compared to Coffee during Endurance Exercise. PLoS ONE 8(4): e59561.

Having a strong belief of your pre-workout ritual

Anyway we also have variables like, how caffeine effects you, which can be entirely genetic – those 1mg per kg protocols over time might suit you better
You may get others super sensitive who can’t handle much at all get jittery and feel sick

We’ve probably all had that deadlifting trip to the toilet that hasn’t helped.

Now, we probalbly if everything I was saying was 100% applicable to everyone will be asking, what is the point in pre-workout nutrition if we can just have a flat white?

Well it has other beneficial compounds it it, but almost every pre workout has caffeine in it – and a problem is that you can’t have a cup of coffee and apreworkout unless you do some serious maths on the serving sizes, so you’re actually getting an inferior form of caffine for the most part – but it’s a middle-ground, it’s a convenience factor,
So – I just want to go a little out of character and shout out to Phil graham and genetic supplements because I work alongside genetic supplements and so does phile, but they have caffeine free versions of their pre-workout so you can do this – partly I believe this was because they wanted it to be suitable for those that train at night but also something I personally believe, because those who are serious should be managing their sports nutrition – if you are super hyped about getting maximum performance, that’s a pretty big factor

The other thing to bare in mind there aswell?

Coffee tastes amazing.

If you have a pre-workout routine which is just having a cup of coffee – which I bet you it is, I bet most people here just take the standard serving size, 1 tsp or whatever – I bet
I mean, how many people just megadose their coffee “strong, coz am lift” ?

Am I preaching to the choir here? Has anyone stopped to think about dosing their caffeine pre-workout? – I mean, I bet loads of us track macros for performance an recovery, – in fact, quick show of hands?
Anyone tried dosing their caffeine?

Improve –

Yeah, most people just go one scoop, two scoops or whatever, but we could all be doing things WAY more accurately, or at the least, – a bit more accurately, or a bit more aware of it
And that is where we will really start to focus now,

The effect of this dosing and research, a little anecdote from myself, from athletes and a little more application of research that you guys can actually use,

I don’t want to overload you with stuff today
I want you to like coffee
I want you to try coffee
I want you to use coffee

There’s enough flashing lights, abs, bums and pecs on show this weekend ti be distracting everyone ,

Learning theory tells us that we can only really take in , what is it, 7 +/- 2 things at any time, so you guys, so let’s make this enjoyable

Dosing Caffeine?

The Aeropress.

Thawn Steiman of Coffea Consulting ( recently measured the caffeine content of AeroPress, Clover, Drip Paper, Drip Gold and French Press.  He reported his results at the 2008 SCAA convention.  

He measured caffeine = 0.64 mg/ml for a single scoop AeroPress Americano, brewed per our instructions with 175F water and grind between drip and espresso.   

The other four brewing methods were all quite similar at 0.6 mg/ml.

It has to do with the compounds we looked at earlier that act synergistically with the caffeine, once you strip that caffeine away from overprotecting to put it into a form where you can add to a canned drink or to make into oa instant cup

So if we look at the caffeine you might get for an energy drink or a bottle of cocala or what you might find in other things, its not quite as potent now also if we look at the caffeine found in chocolate – the bar kind, not the drinking kind, unless its really high quality, you have a less beneficial effect

Interestingly if you llook at type of caffinee we take and use in pre workouts as-well you don’t get quite the same effect as you would from a fresh brewed cup of coffee, that’s again because there are less synergistic compounds, you do get other extras in a pre workout that may help your performance such as b-vitamins or argining which may help blood flow to the working muscles and even straight up carbohydrate but it still doesn’t perform aswell as caffeine from a good quality cup of coffee

There are going to be people who turn around and now say “well nothing beats NOS pump I get jacked workouts from that shizzle yo” or whatever preworkout you use, and that’s great, if you find that works for you, then amazing, that works for you