Written by: Nikolaj Bach, BCs. Scient. Med.

How do you feel, when there is no coffee? Depressed.

The majority of people consume caffeine. Usually, it's through coffee or an energy drink. However, you could also be taking pre-workout throughout your workout to boost your energy and improve your performance.

The quick overview:

  • Start at 1-3 mg of caffeine per. Kg body weight.
  • Start at the lower end of the range if you are not used to caffeine. 
  • Gradually increase the dosage per week to find your "optimal" intake, and avoid tolerance to the stimulating effect.
  • Once you have been on the higher dosage, take a break from caffeine or pre-workout to become responsive again.
  • Avoid drinking large amounts of coffee after midday to avoid disrupting your sleep.

How to use most pre-workout

Many people believe that, like creatine, pre-workout is a dietary supplement that you need every day.

Before each workout, they start with the maximum recommended dose, or even higher. So, what happens next?

You automatically build a tolerance to the stimulating effect. 

And suppose pre-workout did not start with being a patchwork solution because they do not prioritize their recovery and sleep. In that case, it ends up being because consuming caffeine so late in the day that it negatively affects their sleep.

This is how you should actually use pre-workout

Pre-workout can either be used as a "helping hand" on days when you feel tired and unwell or in connection with tough training or competition. But there are other ways to approach it, perhaps even better.

You can use a planned supplement routine to get the most out of the caffeine's benefits linked with your workout instead of boosting your caffeine dose daily or taking pre-workout when you're not feeling well.

What I instead recommended that one do

This is how caffeine works

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) and helps fight fatigue. Caffeine also mobilizes fatty acids for energy conversion, reducing our reliance on glucose as an energy source during exercise (1).

This is how caffeine works

Caffeine for strength training

Caffeine helps to improve short-term and anaerobic performance (3-6), which includes strength training. The effect is the ability to complete many repetitions before reaching muscle fatigue (7,8,9).

Therefore, caffeine is particularly relevant for weight training if it can make you perform a higher overall training volume in multiple lifts. Overall volume is the main factor for hypertrophy (muscle growth) (10).

Tolerance and dosage

As previously stated, caffeine tolerance grows with time, which means that the same pre-workout dose does not provide the same effects.

On the other hand, prolonged caffeine usage affects the stimulating impact of the substance.

The stimulating effect and "caffeine rush" decreases with time, but not the inhibition of fatigue or the impact on muscular performance - at least not to the same extent.

Caffeine and sleep

You can consume too much caffeine partly because excessive caffeine use can cause side effects such as stomach issues and nausea (2).

On the other side, too much coffee might disrupt your sleep, mainly if consumed late afternoon or evening.

Sleep has a significant impact on your training performance and lack of sleep results in a 70% higher risk of injury. In addition, poor sleep can even reduce fat loss while also increasing muscle mass loss during weight reduction (11,12).

Caffeine remains in the body for roughly 5-6 hours on average (13). Therefore, if you consume a large amount of caffeine late in the afternoon, you may still have enough caffeine in your body at night to disrupt your sleep.


Individual variation

The good news is that there is a great deal of individual variation in how one responds to a supplement of caffeine. Some are very sensitive and experience a beneficial effect at lower doses, just as some people experience side effects at a lower intake than others. In relation to sleep quality, there can also be a very large difference in the half-life (2-12 hours!), So some people have caffeine in the system for a longer or shorter time (14).

This means that the optimal dose of pre-workout for you is not necessarily to maximize the daily dose to begin with.

Individual variation


(1) Sports Med. 2009; 39 (10): 813-32. doi: 10.2165 / 11317770-000000000-00000. Caffeine and anaerobic performance: ergogenic value and mechanisms of action. Davis JK1, Green JM.

(2) Burke LM. Caffeine and sports performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 2008; 33: 1319–34.doi: 10.1139 / H08-130

(3) Wiles JD, Coleman D, Tegerdine M, et al. The effects of caffeine ingestion on performance time, speed and power during a laboratory-based 1 km cycling time-trial. J Sports Sci 2006; 24: 1165–71.doi: 10.1080 / 02640410500457687

(4) Schneiker KT, Bishop D, Dawson B, et al. Effects of caffeine on prolonged intermittent-sprint ability in team-sport athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2006; 38: 578–85.doi: 10.1249 / 01.mss.0000188449.18968.62

(5) Wellington BM, Leveritt MD, Kelly VG. The effect of caffeine on repeat-high-intensity-effort performance in rugby league players. Int J Sports Physiol Perform 2017; 12: 206–10.doi: 10.1123 / ijspp.2015-0689

(6) Bruce CR, Anderson ME, Fraser SF, et al. Enhancement of 2000-m rowing performance after caffeine ingestion. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000; 32: 1958–63.doi: 10.1097 / 00005768-200011000-00021PubMedWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

(7) J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Oct; 30 (10): 2892-900. doi: 10.1519 / JSC.0000000000001382. Effect of Coffee and Caffeine Ingestion on Resistance Exercise Performance. Richardson DL1, Clarke ND.

(8) J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jan; 25 (1): 178-85. doi: 10.1519 / JSC.0b013e318201bddb. The effect of caffeine ingestion on mood state and bench press performance to failure. Duncan MJ1, Oxford SW.

(9) J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2018 Mar; 58 (3): 249-255. doi: 10.23736 / S0022-4707.17.06615-4. Epub 2017 Apr 13. Performance of muscle strength and fatigue tolerance in young trained women supplemented with caffeine. Fett CA1,2,3, Aquino NM4, Schantz Junior J4,5, Brandão CF4,6, de Araújo Cavalcanti JD4, Fett WC4,5.

(10) Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sports Sci. 2016 Jul 19: 1-10.

(11) J Pediatr Orthop. 2014 Mar; 34 (2): 129-33. doi: 10.1097 / BPO.0000000000000151. Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. Milewski MD1, Skaggs DL, Bishop GA, Pace JL, Ibrahim DA, Wren TA, Barzdukas A.

(12) Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Schoeller DA, Penev PD. Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Annals of internal medicine. 2010; 153 (7): 435-441. doi: 10.1059 / 0003-4819-153-7-201010050-00006.

(13) Am J Clin Pathol. 1980 Mar; 73 (3): 390-3. Serum caffeine half-lives. Healthy subjects vs. patients having alcoholic hepatic disease. Statland BE, Demas TJ.

(14) Cappelletti S, Daria P, Sani G, Aromatario M. Caffeine: Cognitive and Physical Performance Enhancer or Psychoactive Drug? Current Neuropharmacology. 2015; 13 (1): 71-88. doi: 10.2174 / 1570159X13666141210215655. 

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