Doing This Before You Exercise Helps You Burn More Fat, New Study Says

You can get even more out of your sweat session by adding this pre-workout ritual.

A perfectly timed cup of coffee can help you wake up in the morning or get you to snap out of a mid-afternoon fog. But there's also evidence that a cup of joe can give your daily workout a slight boost. According to a new study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, drinking a strong coffee before you exercise can help your body burn extra fat. Read on to see how you can give your next sweat session a little pick-me-up, and for more on what you should avoid putting into your body, check out This Is the One Vitamin You Should Never Take, Doctors Say.

Caffeine can help your body burn fat faster during a workout.

Woman holding cup of coffee

The new study set out to determine the effects of caffeine on "fat oxidation," or the rate at which your body burns fat. To test this, 15 male participants with an average age of 32 were asked to perform an exercise test four times at seven-day intervals, with researchers making sure each participant was tested the same amount of time since their last meal or workout and that they weren't taking any supplements.

Researchers also gave each subject 3 mg/kg of caffeine—the equivalent to a strong cup of coffee—or a placebo at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Results showed that participants who ingested caffeine burned fat at a faster rate during their workout than those who had taken the placebo.

"The results of our study showed that acute caffeine ingestion 30 minutes before performing an aerobic exercise test increased maximum fat oxidation during exercise," Francisco José Amaro-Gahete, an assistant professor from the Department of Physiology at the University of Granada in Spain and the lead author of this research, said in a statement.

Caffeine has even more of an effect on fat burning during the afternoon.

People hands holding cups of coffee

Researchers also found that while caffeine always affected fat burning, it was particularly potent when used before afternoon exercises. Their findings suggest that caffeine increases fat oxidation during morning workouts in a similar way to workouts without caffeine in the afternoon, suggesting that you'll get the best results drinking a quick coffee before you exercise later in the day. And for more on what exercise can tell you about your health, check out If You Can't Do This in 90 Seconds, Your Heart Is in Danger, Study Says.

The findings contradict typical workout recommendations to exercise first thing in the morning.

Woman drinking water during exercise

The new study seems to contradict the popular belief that starting your day with a workout will lead to the best results. "The recommendation to exercise on an empty stomach in the morning to increase fat oxidation is commonplace," Amaro-Gahete explained. "However, this recommendation may be lacking a scientific basis, as it is unknown whether this increase is due to exercising in the morning or due to going without food for a longer period of time." And for more health news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

You should still be aware of the effects of consuming too much caffeine.

Light roast coffee in glasses

The new study is based on a small sample set, so the findings warrant further research into how caffeine can help your body burn fat. But it's still important to avoid ingesting too much caffeine: According to a 2015 report from the European Food Safety Authority, adults can safely consume up to 400 mg of caffeine a day, or around 200 mg per serving, without feeling negative side effects such as anxiety, insomnia, or irregular heart rhythm. And for more on how much java you can safely have, check out If You Drink This Much Coffee a Day, Your Heart's in Danger, Study Finds.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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