Improving your workouts with caffeine

Caffeine. Some people love it, some people hate it; but it’s impact on physical performance cannot be disputed. In our latest blog we look to tackle some of the most common questions surrounding caffeine such as:
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of caffeine?
  • How much caffeine should we take pre workout?
  • When should we take caffeine?
So, let’s get in to it…

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Caffeine

Simply put, caffeine reduces our perception of effort and pain during exercise. What used to be a tough 5k run should feel slightly easier. The pain from lactic acid build up while cycling should feel slightly reduced. There are many reasons why this is the case, but the most critical are:
  • Stimulated central nervous system
  • Increased heart rate
  • Higher blood lactate levels
  • Increased blood free fatty acids and glycerol levels
When you combine these effects, it improves your body's capability to perform. Having said that, caffeine can cause side effects when over-consumed. And to be clear, these side effects are when caffeine is consumed in excess (200mg+) or if someone is sensitive to caffeine. These side effects can include:
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Inability to focus
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Post-caffeine ‘crash’
We’ve all been there. We’ve had a big coffee, our head starts spinning, our stomach feels uneasy and after a few hours we go into a post-caffeine slump. Is this necessary or can we avoid it?

How Much Caffeine Should We Take Pre Workout?

Before we get into the ‘how much’ I thought it would be useful if we outline caffeine amounts in popular drinks:
  • Cup of tea = 50mg
  • Starbucks black coffee (short) = 75mg
  • Can of White Monster (470ml) = 150mg
  • Starbucks black coffee (grande) = 225mg
  • Ghost Legend Pre Workout = 250mg
As we can see, cups of tea and small cups of coffee contain low amounts of caffeine. Whereas larger drinks and supplements tend to contain high levels of caffeine.
The reason supplements tend to favour higher levels of caffeine is because this maximises performance. Studies show that between 200mg - 400mg is the optimal dose if your goal is to simply improve performance.
However, at these doses you are almost guaranteed to suffer from some of the side effects such as upset stomach, caffeine crash etc. Similar studies have indicated that lower levels of caffeine consumption (50mg - 200mg) also improve performance.
Whilst evidence suggests more caffeine is better for performance. We have to consider the benefits of lower caffeine, we still get a performance bump but we do not get the side effects.
And with this, it really depends on what your preferred style is. If you prefer to feel 'charged' every workout, then a high caffeine dose may be the way to go.
Additionally, if you have a competition or race you need to be on top form for, it may be worth going high dose (200mg+).
However, if you'd like a more sustainable approach that doesn't come with the side effects, then a lower caffeine dose could be for you. 50mg - 200mg of caffeine will still provide a significant performance increase and reduces side effect likelihood.

How long before my workout should I consume caffeine?

While most people start to feel the initial effects of caffeine within 15 minutes of consuming their drink this doesn’t provide optimal performance.
It is advised optimal performance will occur roughly 45 - 75 minutes after consuming caffeine.
The initial impact of caffeine tends to wear off after 3-4 hours, and eventually leaves your body after 10 hours. Although, again it’s worth caveating that this will differ from person to person.


So, it’s fair to say if you need to be at your absolute best for 1 day, then a high caffeine approach would be recommended. This can be anywhere from 200mg to 400mg depending on the person.
However, for your day to day training a lower caffeine approach seems sensible as it helps avoid the side effects associated with caffeine. This can be anywhere from 50mg to 200mg of caffeine.
Looking for more tips on how to improve your performance? We did a whole blog on it here!