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Crush Your Next Race or Workout: Your Guide to Using Caffeine to Enhance Athletic Performance

What if you could take a totally legal performance-enhancing drug and run a personal best, power your long bike ride, or crush your next workout? 

You can—and even better, it’s something you probably already had this morning: a cup of coffee.

The Science Behind Caffeine and Exercise

Multiple research studies have shown a strong connection between caffeine consumption and better athletic performance. The connection appears especially strong for endurance athletics—sports like distance running, rowing, cycling, and triathlons, among others. Caffeine has benefits for bouts of exercise as short as two minutes and as long as two hours. And it’s super effective: research has shown that it can improve performance by 3%. That’s like taking a full minute off your 5K race time! 

How? Many studies support the concept that coffee enhances endurance, increases power, and helps us sustain higher-intensity activity for longer periods of time. It’s why you can find caffeine in energy gels, chews, bars, and hydration mixes made specifically to power athletic performance.

Caffeine is also considered safe, as research has shown it does not cause negative effects on performance or lead to dehydration or electrolyte imbalance during exercise. While major sports bodies including the International Olympic Committee ban excessive use of caffeine, it’s effective at low doses, and even for habitual users (we’re looking at you, coffee lovers). Data even suggests that caffeine can help post-workout recovery. 

The Benefits of Caffeine in Athletic Performance

Caffeine activates certain areas of our brains while suppressing others. Think of its most frequent use: to help wake us up when we feel sleepy. This happens because caffeine blocks adenosine, which is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain. It’s like a traffic signal that slows down other activities and signals in the brain when it’s time to rest. Caffeine effectively turns off the adenosine—so we feel less fatigue. 

This may explain how it helps us push past the unconscious limits our brains put on our bodies for physical exercise (this is called the “central governor theory” in exercise). When used correctly, caffeine can help to sustain strength and effort, improve reaction time, and increase power and precision. It can help us be stronger and go longer. 

How to Use Caffeine to Fuel Athletic Performance

Caffeine takes effect between 30 to 60 minutes after you consume it. And, as anyone who has ever lost a night of sleep to a late-day cup of coffee knows all too well, caffeine can stay in your system a while. 

For the best results in athletic performance, experts suggest consuming between 3 to 9 mg of caffeine per kilogram about 30 to 60 minutes before your athletic event. For a 150-pound person, that’s about 200 to 600 mg of coffee. A typical cup of coffee comes in at about 120 mg of caffeine. If your event is longer than an hour in duration—we’re looking at you, marathon runners—you might want to supplement your caffeine intake with caffeinated sports gels, which can contain 20 to 30 mg of caffeine each. 

Stewarts Performance Blend for Athletes

Crush your next workout or chase a new personal record with Stewarts Performance Blend. This blend has 2X the caffeine of the average cup of coffee—helping you get to the optimal caffeine dose more easily. Stewarts Performance Blend is 100% coffee—no added preservatives, additives, or supplements. Stewarts Performance Blend is prepared to perfection, optimizing every milligram of caffeine extracted out of the coffee bean.

About Stewarts Coffee

Stewarts Coffee was established in 1913 by William A. Stewart on Chicago’s West Side—and for 100+ years has made some of America’s best coffee as the city’s oldest family-owned coffee company. This tradition dates back to the 1930s when Stewarts Private Blend Coffee was chosen as the “Official World’s Fair Coffee” during the Century of Progress World’s Fair held in Chicago. Today Stewarts’ passion to serve fine coffees and teas has employees traveling the world to bring customers the very best. Learn more at