The surprising reason we should be drinking coffee *after* our workouts

A new study has found that a cup of coffee after exercising massively increases your muscle glycogen supply – meaning that they’re better able to recover quicker.

Runners are often keen coffee drinkers. There’s nothing like a steaming hot, black cup of joe to get you feeling pumped and ready to cover some miles. 

That association isn’t just psychosomatic; in fact, between 1984 and 2004, caffeine was actually a banned substance in competitive running, and studies have found that just two cups of coffee can improve your long run performance by an average of 24%. 

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But if you think that coffee only serves a purpose as a pre-workout, think again. A new study has found that a post-workout latte can also offer some serious benefits. 

Published in the journal Nutrients, 2022 research has found that drinking coffee after a hard workout may help us recover more effectively. Scientists got a handful of cyclists to ride for four-hours one afternoon, and then made them repeat the challenge the following morning. After the second slog, some cyclists were given milky, sugary coffee to drink while others had an non-caffeinated, sugary drink.

Milky, sugary coffee is best for muscle recovery

Those who drank coffee saw their muscle glycogen supply increase 57% more than those who had the non-caffeinated drink. It’s key to flag that the study didn’t look at the impact of black coffee, but rather a combination of caffeine, carbs and protein – so if you were looking to cash in on the benefits, either team your post-workout Americano with something like a banana and nut butter, or make sure you’ve got a creamy, sweet mug.

Now, this is all great news if you’re a morning runner. You can get up, have your energising cup before you head out and then have your second coffee of the day after your workout to re-boost your energy and speed up your recovery. It’s just one more benefit to drinking coffee (on top of the fact that it boosts gut health, improves lifespan and contributes to our overall hydration). 

How to recover if you work out in the evening

But if you run in the evening, you may not be too keen to start chugging caffeine at 6pm. So, what are you supposed to do if you tend to move later in the day and want to recover well?

There are plenty of ways to soothe muscles after a run or weights session, from eating a nourishing dinner (think: protein and carbs), to going to bed earlier on heavy workout days. Following a fast run with a really easy jog can help the muscles recover, and frequent rest days also allow for the body to repair.

We’re not saying that coffee is the be-all and end-all of recovery, but this very small study does give those of us who drink more than a single shot some comfort that we’re doing our bodies more good than harm.

Images: Getty

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