One common question early morning runners have is about what to drink before running in the morning. Most runners know that they should drink plenty of water before and during a run, but what about coffee? Will drinking coffee make you dehydrated and ruin your workout?
It can be hard to know what to drink before running in the morning, especially when so many people swear by drinking coffee before a workout or taking some other type of caffeine for a pick-me-up before exercise.
Pre-workout is another common thing, but ultimately it’s just a bunch of caffeine anyways. Should you have some of that? In this article, we’ll dig into the details and look at the pre-running drink options, how coffee stacks up, and how caffeine affects running performance in general. We will look through the science, and give you some recommendations on what makes the most sense.
What Are The Pre-Run Drink Options And Which Is Best?
There are several options for hydrating before a run. Water, sports drinks, coffee, or some other pre-workout are the most common. Other options, like carbonated drinks or coconut water, are less common but also work.
We’ll look at each one below and talk about the pros and cons of each option.
Water is critical for life. It’s the simplest form of hydration and often the best. It’s readily available, cheap, and does a great job of keeping you hydrated and feeling great. Water is a great option with very little downside. The only time a runner may need something more than water is when they are going to be running a long-distance, say 8 to 10 miles, and need some additional carbs for fuel
In that case, a sports drink may be a better fit.
Sports Drinks Like Gatorade
Sports drinks are largely made of water and have flavoring to make them taste a bit better. They can be very sweet and made with real sugar (carbs) or artificial sugar (0 calories). When looking to tackle a very long distance, grabbing something with some carbohydrates is likely a good idea.
The sugar in a sports drink can act as fuel later on and help fill up your glycogen reserves to help you power through those tough runs.
Coffee is water that has been filtered through coffee beans or grounds to give it a different taste. Unless you specifically drink decaf coffee, coffee contains caffeine. Caffeine raises your heart rate, increases your blood pressure, and makes you more alert by stimulating your brain.
While that may sound harmful, it can be helpful when looking at ingesting it before a run – depending on the intensity of the run. For a long, slow run it may not be necessary, but for a more moderately paced run or interval session it may help give you the extra push you need.
Pre-workout is normally sold in powder and can be added to water and ingested. Pre-workout varies from manufacturer and style, but in most cases, it has a lot of caffeine and other vitamins and minerals that are helpful for maximum muscle engagement and recovery.
Ultimately, it’s pretty similar to coffee. Many people use black coffee as a pre-workout, especially if they have some underlying condition like depression or anxiety that may not work well with something like pre-workout.
How To Pick The Right Drink For Running In The Morning
Picking the right drink to match your morning run is pretty straightforward. There are a few key variables to look at:
- How long do I have until I will be running?
- How far or long am I going to run?
Once you can answer these two questions, it will likely help you narrow your drink choice down to a few contenders.
Length of Time Before Running
If you are the type to wake up at 4 am and hit the road by 4:15, you need to consider that. Caffeine takes about 15 minutes to hit your bloodstream but can take 45 minutes or so to take full effect. In that case, you would be fine to take a pre-workout or drink a coffee, but if you are doing a short run, you may finish before the full-effect of the coffee kicks in.
In this scenario, water or a sports drink are also fine options. The key is to not wait too long before you run or you may start to feel the effects of the caffeine before you start working out. Caffeine can make people jittery or uncomfortable – especially when taken in a high dosage from something like a pre-workout.
How Far You Are Going To Run – Minutes or Miles
This is likely the most important question when determining what drink you should have. If you are only going to be running for 30 minutes, water is fine. It’s probably better than any other option. None of the other options are bad, but they aren’t necessary for a shorter run.
Sports drinks can add extra calories that aren’t needed, and caffeine may not be necessary as well if you aren’t pushing for a PR in a 5k.
If the plan is to run for an extended length of time, a sports drink may be the best option for extra fuel to help get you through the back half of the run. Generally, running for less than about 40 minutes is easy enough on your body’s normal glycogen levels, but after that, the body can deplete its energy reserves and need some sort of additional fuel source to continue to run optimally.
Should I Drink Coffee Before Running in The Morning?
There is nothing inherently wrong with drinking coffee before running in the morning. The caffeine can help give you an extra boost, but for people with sensitive stomachs, it can also be an irritant. If you can drink it without issue, and enjoy it, it’s a fine option.
While this is much debated, for the vast majority of runners a cup of coffee prior to running isn’t going to cause any issues. Most people believe caffeine dehydrates you, and while that is somewhat true, it’s generally agreed that drinking coffee as part of a normal lifestyle doesn’t lead to any significant hydration issues.
That said, water is likely a better choice if you aren’t a fan of caffeine or are sensitive to it. As discussed earlier, sports drinks or other types of flavored water would both be an alternative that works just as well as coffee may.
Is 200mg Caffeine Before Running Safe?
200mg of caffeine is a safe amount before a run. A general recommendation for caffeine before running is between 1 mg and 3 mg per pound of bodyweight. That would make 200mg about average for someone weighing 100 lbs, but on the low end for someone weighing 200 lbs.
200mg is safe before any exercise including running unless you are very small or a child, in which case coffee and caffeine are likely not a great option regardless. Going much higher, say 600mg for a 200lb person is the top end or slightly above the recommended dosage, but likely wouldn’t cause any issues.
If in doubt at all, consult a physician, however many people drink a lot of coffee and don’t seem to suffer any acute issues from it. As always, take stock of how you feel afterward. If you are overly jittery or have trouble sleeping later, then you may need to dial back the caffeine consumption a bit. It can be a bit of trial and error, but once you find the sweet spot, it can help your motivation and performance when working out.
Drinking before running in the morning is very important for hydration and performance purposes. As we’ve discussed, as long as you are drinking water or something similar, with or without caffeine, you’re likely fine for most runs. For longer distance runs or races, a sports drink would be recommended based on its ability to replenish energy reserves and help fuel you through the miles.
If you plan to run for longer than 20-30 minutes, taking a hydration source with you is also important to stay hydrated throughout the entire run.