The benefits of coffee may last longer than you think

By Macaela Mackenzie
January 14, 2016

It's the beginning of a new year, so you're hopefully still feeling optimistic about your fitness goals. But if the cold weather has you dragging your feet to the gym, a cup of coffee could provide a seemingly magical dose of motivation.

Caffeine has long been associated with major fitness benefits (you've probably noticed the ingredient in lots of sports gels) and can be a key ingredient for longer, stronger workouts. But according to a paper on the use of psychoactive substances (like caffeine) in sports, the benefits of caffeine consumption can go beyond just boosting workout performance. Samuele Marcora, Ph.D., a University of Kent endurance expert and author of the paper published in the journal Sports Medicine, presents strong evidence that grabbing a cup of joe (or your caffeinated beverage of choice) before hitting the gym can help you to stick with your fitness-focused resolutions in the long run.

It's all about what caffeine can do for your motivation, expanding upon what we already know about caffeine and performance. "In my opinion, we have not paid enough attention to the core psychobiological reason for why most people do not regularly engage in physical activity: humans do not like to exert effort," Marcora wrote in the paper. "We need to find ways to significantly reduce perception of effort and discomfort during exercise without reducing exercise intensity and/or exercise duration."

Insert coffee. See, caffeine has been known to make your workout feel easier. Marcora cites motivational intensity theory and the hedonic theory of motivation, which are fancy ways of saying that reducing your perception of effort and discomfort during an activity should increase your desire to stick with it.

In other words, the boost you get from your morning coffee makes that six a.m. spin class feel a lot less exhausting and more enjoyable. If you feel more energized during your workout, and it's not a dreaded experience, you're more likely to keep at it.

To reap the motivation boosting benefits, grab a cup of joe and hour before you hit the gym, but stick to one. Anything over 100mg of caffeine (a shot of espresso has 75mg) can make you feel lightheaded and nausous when you hit the treadmill.

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