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We Approve of This Science-Backed Pre-Workout Ritual

by Isadora Baum
April 15, 2021
Photo Credit: McKinsey Jordan

If you’re a coffee drinker, we’ve got some good news. Sipping a cuppa Joe before your next workout may have some major benefits. According to a recent study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, drinking coffee (or any caffeinated beverage) 30 minutes before working out may boost fat burning.

Here’s what to know:

1. Fat oxidation rate is a measure of how your body burns fat.

“For endurance athletes, a high fat oxidation rate is good because it means the body burns fat while preserving carbohydrates and glycogen stores, “ says Danielle McAvoy, RD and Senior Manager of Nutrition for Territory Foods. For non-athletes, a higher fat oxidation rate could mean more efficiently burning excess, unwanted body fat.

2. The study showed a strong correlation between time of day and fat oxidation rate.

The study found that without any caffeine, the participants had a higher maximal fat oxidation rate (aka, they burned more fat) in the afternoon compared to the morning.

3. The study showed a strong correlation between caffeine and fat oxidation rate.

When the participants took caffeine, the fat oxidation rate during increased by 10.7% in the morning and 29% in the afternoon. Why? Not only does caffeine trigger the breakdown of body fat for energy, but it also decreases the perception of fatigue and improves focus. “This allows us to work harder for longer and burn more energy,” says McAvoy.

4. But, too much caffeine is overkill.

The study used 3 mg/kg body weight — or about 200 mg caffeine for a 150 lb. person. Above that, many people report side effects such as GI upset, nervousness, inability to focus and disturbed sleep.

5. The study only involved young men.

“A major limitation of this study is that it only included men, so the findings do not necessarily apply to women,” cautions McAvoy. And, she adds, “They were also relatively young, active men, so these findings can’t be applied to older or more sedentary populations.” However, it shows promise for future studies that are larger in sample size and have more variety of population.

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