Instead of reaching for expensive and complicated pre-workout mixes, you may want to consider just reaching for one of the oldest tricks in the book: strong coffee.
Researchers from the University of Granada have pinpointed exactly when and how strong coffee can make a difference in your next workout routine. The team was mostly interested in finding out if there was any conclusive evidence that coffee stimulates the burning of fat when exercising as supposed in this triple-blind and placebo-controlled study.
Current evidence from studies in cyclists suggests that drinking coffee before exercise to get ergogenic benefits is best done on an empty stomach in the morning. Fifteen healthy male adults were given either the caffeine equivalent of a strong coffee (around 3 mg/kg of bodyweight) or a placebo in the morning at 8 am and in the evening at 5 pm. The participants then performed aerobic exercise four times daily while fat burning (oxidation) was measured.
Contrary to the current consensus about needing to drink coffee on an empty stomach in order to benefit from its fat-burning properties before exercise, the researchers found that the best whole-body fat burning occurred in the afternoon. The sweet spot for reaping the benefits of caffeine before exercise occurred 30 minutes before the start of the workout.
Surprisingly, caffeine taken before a morning workout only had about as much impact on fat oxidation as an afternoon workout without any caffeine. If you’re looking to maximize fat burning during exercise, the study points out that it may be better to drink it about 30 minutes before an afternoon workout, which is probably good advice considering that we know drinking coffee on an empty stomach leads to more severe blood sugar crashes throughout the day.
Mauricio Ramírez-Maldonado, Lucas Jurado-Fasoli, Juan del Coso, et al. Caffeine increases maximal fat oxidation during a graded exercise test: is there a diurnal variation? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2021; 18 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12970-020-00400-6