Coffee vs. Caffeinated Drinks: Which is the Ultimate Cycling Preworkout?

Photo of author

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I may receive a commission if you purchase using these links.

Caffeine consumption is a popular way to energize before doing intense cycling, but with so many options, which source is best? In this post, we’ll explore the debate of coffee vs. other caffeinated drinks to determine the ultimate preworkout champion.

The Study

A 2013 study1 has shed light on the performance-enhancing effects of caffeine and coffee for endurance exercise.

While previous research has found that caffeine can improve endurance exercise performance, it’s been unclear whether coffee has the same effects.

The new study, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, aimed to investigate the effects of both caffeine and coffee on exercise performance.

Cyclists Competing In The Tour De France
Cyclists competing in the Tour De France

The study involved eight trained male cyclists and triathletes with an average age of 41 years.

Each participant completed a time trial performance test, preceded by 30 minutes of steady-state cycling at approximately 55% of their maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max).

Note: VO2 is the max amount of oxygen an individual can use during exercise and measures cardiovascular fitness and aerobic capacity.

Before the exercise, each participant consumed one of four drinks:

  • caffeine
  • instant coffee
  • instant decaffeinated coffee
  • placebo

The caffeine and coffee drinks were given at a dose of 5 mg per kilogram of body weight, equivalent to about two cups of strong coffee for an average person. The participants consumed the drinks one hour before the exercise.

ParticipantsTrained male cyclists and triathletes
Average age41
Pre-exercise30 minutes of steady-state cycling at approximately 55% of their VO2max
Drinks consumedcaffeine, instant coffee, instant decaffeinated coffee, or a placebo
Testtime trial performance test

The results

Which is a better pre-workout, coffee or anything with caffeine?

Interestingly, the study found that caffeine and coffee similarly affect the body’s metabolism during exercise.

When people drank either caffeine or coffee, they were able to exercise for more extended periods of time compared to when they drank decaf or a placebo.

In other words, it doesn’t matter if you get your caffeine from a cup of coffee or another source; caffeine can make you perform 5% better.

Recipe for a Coffee-Based Pre-Workout Drink

Here’s a super simple coffee preworkout recipe that only requires three ingredients – cold brew coffee, whey protein, and whole milk:


  • 1 cup cold brew coffee
  • One scoop whey protein powder
  • 1/2 cup whole milk


  1. In a shaker cup, combine the cold brew coffee, whey protein powder, and whole milk.
  2. Shake until the mixture is smooth and frothy.

Pro tip: I’ve tried a million types of coffee, and the best cold brew I’ve ever made came from Spirit Animal Coffee’s Bourbon blend.

This coffee preworkout recipe is a quick and easy way to energize before a workout. The cold brew coffee provides a boost of caffeine, while the whey protein powder helps to build muscle and repair tissue. The whole milk adds creaminess and a dose of healthy fats.


Can you use coffee as a pre-workout?

Is Coffee A Good Recovery Drink

Yes. The caffeine in coffee has been proven to increase athletic performance by at least 5% in male triathletes and cyclists.

What’s the best pre-workout coffee?

Spirit Animal Coffee

The best pre-workout cold brew coffee is Spirit Animal Coffee’s Bourbon blend. The best hot coffee for pre-workouts is the Sumatra Roast by Volcanica Coffee Company.

What are the benefits of using coffee as a pre-workout?

Drinking Coffee After A Hard Workout Coffee Recovery Drink

Coffee has several benefits as a pre-workout drink. Firstly, it contains caffeine, which can help increase energy levels, mental alertness, and focus during exercise. Caffeine has also been shown to reduce perceived exertion, making exercise feel easier.


The study proved that caffeine can help you do better in endurance-based exercises. It also showed that coffee could have similar effects as caffeine, but the study only looked at men who do cycling and triathlons.

It’s unclear if this works for everyone and other types of exercise. Remember, caffeine and coffee can help you, but it’s important to use them in moderation and not as a replacement for good training and eating habits.


  1. Hodgson AB, Randell RK, Jeukendrup AE. The metabolic and performance effects of caffeine compared to coffee during endurance exercise. PLoS One. 2013;8(4):e59561. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059561. Epub 2013 Apr 3. PMID: 23573201; PMCID: PMC3616086.
Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
With over two decades in the coffee industry, Kelsey is a seasoned professional barista with roots in Seattle and Santa Barbara. Accredited by The Coffee Association of America and a member of The Baristas Guild, he combines practical expertise with a profound understanding of coffee's history and cultural significance. Kelsey tries his best to balance family time with blogging time and fails miserably.

Leave a Comment