If you need a pre-workout boost, caffeine is easy and effective at waking you up fast. However, the most common source of ingesting caffeine is through coffee, which may not be a sip of choice for everyone. Some people simply don’t enjoy the taste of coffee, so they’ll need something else for that caffeinated jolt.
So, it’s smart to include it in your diet, especially before hitting the gym for your workout session.
“Instead of using glycogen stores for your workout, the theory suggests that caffeine helps muscles burn fat as the primary energy source, preserving your glycogen stores and thus you are able to work out for longer,” she says.
For athletes, the amount of caffeine recommended around an hour before a workout is about 200-400 milligrams. While 400 milligrams is the recommended limit for most people, it can vary per person.
"More than 400 milligrams of caffeine can lead to headaches, crashes, insomnia, nervousness, irritability, fast heartbeat, and frequent urination," Schapiro says. "So, if you are someone who is sensitive to caffeine, I recommend stopping your tea/coffee intake at 2 p.m. so that it doesn’t affect your sleep."
Keep this rule in mind: one cup of brewed coffee or one shot of espresso are both about 100 milligrams of caffeine, whereas a 12-ounce can of Diet Coke is about 50 milligrams.
Luckily, if you don’t like coffee, you’re still able to get that caffeine boost through other sources, such as beverages, snacks, and workout gels. These five options are the top sources of caffeine for athletes to enjoy when training, especially if you don’t like coffee or want to swap it out on occasion to mix things up.
How to Get Caffeine Without Coffee
An eight-ounce serving of green tea has about 28 milligrams of caffeine. Consume it about 30 to 60 minutes before a workout.
“Green tea is full of polyphenol antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation and it’s also great to drink before a workout as research shows it stimulates fat burning and revs up the metabolism,” she says. “The antioxidants in green tea have also been shown to protect against bone loss, another great reason to drink green tea before your next workout."
One ounce of dark chocolate contains about 12 milligrams of caffeine, and dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which may be linked to cancer prevention and improved heart health.
Before hitting the gym, Jones recommends one ounce of dark chocolate about 20 to 60 minutes before a workout.
Some protein bars offer a caffeine boost and are the perfect quick and easy snack to eat right before your workout.
“One bar has 65 milligrams of caffeine, and these bars are also great if you’re working out in the morning and looking for a little something — not a whole meal — to power you through your workout,” Jones says.
Eat a bar before working out for that caffeine benefit, but not too close where you may feel sick.
“I recommend having one of these bars 20 to 60 minutes before a workout to give your body some time to digest before working out,” she says.
Gum and Mints With Caffeine
Simply mints have a line of caffeinated mints where the entire tin contains about 360 milligrams of caffeine.
“These mints are the perfect little caffeine boost to get you through your workout and they taste great,” she says. “What I also love about these mints is that you can eat a couple of them right before a workout and you don’t need to wait for your body to digest before diving into your workout."
Spartan Energy Capsules
Something easy and quick to eat — like energy capsules — can hit the spot and be great for on-the-go caffeine when you’re working out or headed to your workout session.
“For the athlete, these energy capsules are a great way to get you through long workouts and training and because these capsules release slowly over time, there is no need to worry about the jitters or a crash."
Jones recommends taking the capsules earlier in the day so that you don't disrupt your body's natural sleeping schedule, but it depends on your own body. So, if you’re less sensitive to caffeine, you may be able to delay the cutoff time a bit more.