Coffee keeps you awake and boosts your energy, but is it healthy and effective in boosting your CrossFit workout?
Although traditional wisdom holds that water is the best beverage for a workout (and this is true), CrossFitters regularly use coffee to increase their energy, improve their mood, and boost their metabolism to burn fat.
In this article, we’ll look at how you can use coffee as a supplement to help your workouts and check out some of the best coffee out there for CrossFitters in 2022.
The Good: The Benefits of Drinking Coffee Before a Crossfit Workout
Some of the top CrossFit athletes swear by coffee and caffeine as a supplement. Caffeine is widely considered a performance-enhancing drug and before 2000, drinking more than 8 regular cups per day was against the rules for athletes in the Olympics. Drinking coffee before a workout can do more than just keep you awake – it can boost your performance and increase your gains.
If you like working out first thing in the morning you’re probably familiar with that “foggy” state of mind and sluggish performance that comes from being overtired.
That’s adenosine, a chemical in your brain that governs how tired you feel. First thing in the morning, you still have an awful lot of it floating around from the night before, which can screw up plans for an energetic workout at dawn.
Caffeine binds with the neurochemical receptors that were meant for adenosine, replacing it so it can’t make you tired. Instead, you feel energized and awake. It effectively tricks your brain into becoming energetic by replacing the chemical that makes you sleepy.
Caffeine sharpens your perceptions and throws your body into “fight or flight” mode, sending you adrenaline and burning sugar and fat to try to escape what your body perceives as a dangerous situation. Sensing an emergency, your body is tricked into activating all of its resources, metabolizing sugar and sending energy to your muscles, increasing your intake of oxygen, and dulling pain responses and fatigue.
Some other physical and mental benefits make caffeine a great supplement to your CrossFit workouts.
Mentally, coffee can help you enjoy your workouts more. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that 2 cups of coffee made a workout on a stationary bike more enjoyable than it was with black tea. The participants in the study who drank the coffee also rated the exercise as easier. If you struggle to get into the mindset to work out, coffee might help you enjoy CrossFit more.
Physically, caffeine has been proven to help with weight loss. In a study published by the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, study participants burned 15% more calories for 3 hours after exercising. Caffeine helps you burn more calories while working out, and increases your metabolism so that you continue burning more calories throughout the rest of the day. It helps to shift your body’s metabolism from burning glycogen to using fat stores and also doubles as an appetite suppressant, so you are less likely to eat a lot of calories post-workout.
If you’re already a coffee drinker and you’re thinking about using coffee as a supplement for CrossFit, you can find the right coffee and use it skillfully in the right amounts and in the right ways to maximize the results of your workouts.
The Bad: What to Avoid in Your Pre-Workout Coffee
Coffee can be a powerful supplement that can help you perform better, but the coffee that most people drink is more like a dessert than a CrossFit supplement.
A low-fat vanilla late with whipped cream is obviously not a good pre-workout beverage.
Adding sugar to your coffee eliminates a lot of the benefits, so the most important thing is to start drinking your coffee without it. Sugar is not your friend in general, and pairing sugar and caffeine inevitably leads to energy crashes that can be devastating and drive you into a cycle of caffeine dependency.
That doesn’t mean you need to drink your coffee black. You can add milk, MCT oil, L-theanine, or other supplements.
More is not always better when it comes to caffeine. A few cups are fine, but you don’t want to drink more than 4 cups before a workout. Studies show that the benefits have diminishing returns, so a cup will help but drinking several more won’t multiply the benefits.
Caffeine is also a diuretic, which means that you will need to drink more water to compensate. If you are drinking coffee before a workout, you might want to increase the amount of water that you drink while working out so that you stay fully hydrated.
The optimal time to drink a coffee before working out is an hour in advance. You don’t want to drink it while you’re active, and you also don’t want to let several hours lapse between your morning coffee and your workout, if you want to see the best results.
How to Choose a Pre-Workout Coffee
The best coffee for CrossFit is the one that works for your tastes and your body, so you might need to experiment to find the right one. There are some great options for bulletproof coffee, powdered coffee with supplements included, canned cold brew, Keurig and Nespresso pods, and old-fashioned roasted beans.
For most people, both taste and convenience matter a lot, even if they don’t technically affect your workout. You want to enjoy your coffee as a part of your day, and you need to be able to get it when you want it without a lot of hassle. Choose the type of coffee (beans, cans, or pods) that are most convenient for you, and experiment until you find something that you love for your workouts.
Whether you choose dark roast, medium roast, or light roast is best for you will depend on your taste, your stomach, and your caffeine tolerance. A dark roast is less acidic which makes it easier to digest and less likely to cause stomach problems. It also contains less caffeine than light roast. If you’re concerned at all about how your body will process the coffee you probably want to start with a dark roast. Light roasts are more acidic and also contain more caffeine. If you are addicted to the caffeine rush and you don’t have problems with acidity, light roasts might be for you.
Bulletproof coffee and powdered coffee with supplements add more than caffeine, so always remember that how your body reacts to these might be different than it would to caffeine in isolation.
The Best coffees for CrossFit (in 2022)
Best Ground and Whole Bean Coffees
Caveman Coffee Co.
Caveman Coffee is a favorite of CrossFitters and athletes, both as a coffee in its own right and as a base for an excellent bulletproof coffee. It is endorsed by both Joe Rogan and professional big-wave surfer Nic Lamb.
The beans are available as the dark roast Sabertooth, and you can also buy cans of “Nitro” cold brew.
Caveman Coffee is low acid so it’s not likely to bother your stomach, and it comes packed with lots of energy for your workout.
Caffeine and Kilos PR Blend
This Sacramento coffee company was started by a team of CrossFit Affiliate owners who wanted to make the perfect coffee for high-intensity athletes. They found the right beans and the right roasters to produce an organic coffee that is smooth and comes packed with some major caffeine.
The PR blend is sourced from Panama and is an organic light roast. It does have a higher acid content as a result, so it might not be ideal for delicate stomachs, but if you are a caffeine junkie Caffeine and Kilos has you covered – this coffee will get you moving.
Good Dudes Coffee
The founder of Good Dudes Coffee is Josh Bridges: former Navy SEAL, 6x CrossFit Games athlete, a 4x regional champion, and 7x open workout winner. The idea for this coffee started in 2009 when Bridges was stationed in Iraq but only came into full fruition in 2019 after he had been using coffee as a workout supplement for years.
Good Dudes coffee is ethically sourced and includes a variety of light, medium, and dark roast varieties.
A subscription service is available so that you always receive the coffee you need, directly to your door.
The healthiest coffee you will ever drink. It’s a big claim, but Lifeboost is thinking about a lot of things other coffee brands don’t mention.
For example – coffee beans that are improperly roasted or stored can develop unhealthy mycotoxins from mold that begins to grow on or inside them. These mycotoxins can end up in your coffee in small amounts. Lifeboost is thoroughly tested for mycotoxins and heavy metals to ensure that you only get the healthiest coffee.
Lifeboost is 100% pure organic coffee, is mycotoxin-free, GMO-free, and is grown in the shade and without pesticides. The coffee farmers are paid a fair wage and the roasted beans are very low acid and easy on the stomach.
If you’re looking for the scientifically healthiest coffee out there, Lifeboost has doctors and dentists vouching for it.
Best Instant Coffee Powder
Strong Coffee Company
If you want a mix of supplements to give you the optimal energy levels for your CrossFit workouts, caffeine alone might not be what you’re looking for.
The Strong Coffee Company offers an easy powder that you can mix into hot (or cold) water for instant bulletproof coffee, with grass-fed collagen protein and MCT oil, as well as L-theanine, coconut extract, electrolytes and minerals, and even an original neurofactor extracted from coffeeberry that supports neuron-growth and metabolism.
If you want the maximum benefits of bulletproof coffee to be available in an easy powder, the Strong Coffee Company is one of the most trusted sources athletes go to.
Best Coffee Pods
Nespresso machines are fast, convenient and in almost every household these days. We actually really rate them for the convenience factor – plus, they taste really good too. We partnered up with our friends at The Green Pods to figure out what are best Nespresso capsules for working out.
These 100% compostable pods contain no plastic at all, but do contain some great-tasting coffee for both Keurig and Nespresso machines.
With 2 dark and 2 medium roasts, none of these coffees are too acidic to use pre-workout.
Tayst’s pods are available in a subscription service, so you can automate your coffee needs and minimize the energy you spend on preparing it
2. Death Wish Coffee
This coffee claims to be the strongest on earth, with beans brewing coffee with up to double the caffeine. That should kick your workout up a notch.
Death Wish Coffee pods are available for both Keurig and Nespresso machines, in dark roast, medium roast, and Vallhala Java blend.
The arabica and robusta beans might be strong, but they are not bitter or acidic which means they are still a good candidate for a pre-workout coffee, and they’re conveniently available to brew in your machine at home.
Some of the most affordable biodegradable coffee pods on the market come from Gourmesso, and that doesn’t mean they are bad coffee or that they won’t help your workout.
You can choose a low-acid variety of a coffee you like and order pods for either Keurig or Nespresso with Gourmesso in bulk which can save you money. This coffee will work great pre-workout or even as bulletproof coffee.
Gourmesso has a ton of varieties available, but if you are concerned about toxin-testing, ethics, and sustainability Gourmesso isn’t an industry leader.
Best Bulletproof Coffee
The original bulletproof coffee is brewed from toxin-tested, ethically sourced beans from Colombia, El Salvador, and Guatemala. It’s excellent coffee that happens to work great in the original recipe for bulletproof coffee.
The bulletproof company sells beans, cans of cold-brew, instant coffee, pods, and MCT oil along with anything else you might need. They even have a Nespresso compatible option which is super convenient.
It’s hard to beat the original which has worked so well for so many people. You can make your own bulletproof coffee at home using any coffee beans, grass-fed butter, and MCT oil, but you can get all of these in one place from bulletproof and know for sure that they work optimally together.
How to Use Coffee for CrossFit Workouts
Whether you are making bulletproof coffee or just enjoying a quick cup on your way to the gym, there are a couple of things you can do to make the best of that caffeine for your workout.
- Don’t add sugar to your coffee
- Don’t drink more than 4 cups or 400mg in a day
- Drink your coffee between 30 and 60 minutes before working out
- Choose a low-acidity dark roast to make it easy on your stomach
- Remember to hydrate well while working out and afterward
Caffeine can be a great tool for CrossFitters who want to increase energy and motivation, and it can even help you burn more fat, but if you drink too much of it or pair it with sugar it is probably hurting more than helping you.