The Health Benefits of Coffee & How Caffeine Affects Exercise

There is a simple ethos we have at Conatum Coffee: endeavour to improve.

It’s at the heart of how we develop our products. We place a big focus on understanding where ingredients are sourced, how we can use them to make a product we’ll be happy with, and how they benefit us in daily life. When we first set about developing our coffee, being self-confessed coffee fanatics, we wanted to gain an understanding of the role (if any) coffee and caffeine can have on health and exercise.

We aren’t talking about quickly downing a coffee or energy drink before working out in the hopes it will make us feel more energetic. We’re talking about understanding how exactly an ethically sourced coffee like Conatum can provide a caffeine boost that doesn’t cause you to crash and burn in the middle of the day.

Coffee and caffeine can have tremendous benefits for your health and how you approach exercise. Sadly, it seems that many people have pre-conceptions about coffee which leads them to make simple mistakes. Here at Conatum, we wanted to take a deep dive and research the topic in detail to pass on what we’ve learned. We aim to help you understand the benefits of caffeine when exercising and what it can do for your overall health. And we won’t shy away from the negatives too.

In this guide, we’ll be looking at:


  • How caffeine affects the brain and body

  • The best time of day to drink coffee

  • Having good coffee habits

  • When NOT to drink coffee

  • The health benefits of coffee

  • The exercise benefits of coffee

  • Knowing what the right amount of coffee is

  • Knowing if you’re drinking too much coffee

  • Making better choices with coffee



Boil the kettle, get your beans ground, and have the perfect cup of coffee ready,
as we explore the health benefits of drinking coffee.

Coffee, Adenosine & Your Brain

Coffee’s secret weapon is adenosine, or rather, how it affects adenosine. When we drink coffee, the caffeine from the drink enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine. It is remarkably fast at getting through the blood-brain barrier and latching on to adenosine receptors.

Caffeine has a very similar structure to adenosine, allowing it to bind to adenosine receptors without activating the receptors.

In basic terms, caffeine will block adenosine from doing its job, like someone checking a low kick. By doing so, and keeping adenosine out, neurons have a decreased sensitivity. The brain is left thinking it is perfectly fine to be alert and fire on all cylinders.

So what happens if you drink your favourite coffee (Conatum, of course) every day, at least a few times a day? Well, your neurons develop more adenosine receptors to combat the caffeine. In turn, people will typically drink more coffee to combat that, creating a never-ending to & fro where you need to be wise to consumption. It is the reason why anyone who suddenly goes cold turkey and stops drinking coffee will find themselves tired most of the day. With more receptors and less caffeine, all that adenosine can now latch on and make you feel sleepy.

You might be surprised to know that adenosine receptors aren’t just in the brain. You have them in your heart, kidneys and bladder. If you’ve ever had too much coffee/caffeine throughout the day and suddenly found your heart racing while seemingly doing nothing, this is usually why.

Your window of opportunity: When to drink coffee

So let’s get to the million-pound question: when should someone drink coffee to be alert? And will it help you when exercising? You’ll be happy to know the answer is yes, as long as you know how to do it right.

View coffee the same way you would a pre-workout supplement, NOT as an addition. Pre-workouts already contain caffeine. Imagine what it must be like to take one, and then tell your body, “here comes even more caffeine”. As Men’s Health reports, “maximum caffeine concentration hits at about 45 minutes post-consumption” 1.

Taking a cup 45 minutes to an hour before you exercise is going to help best. It’s the same when you drink coffee before work in the morning. You can even see this in action. Give this experiment a go; drink coffee at 8:15 every morning and write down how you feel come 9 am. Then repeat the next week by avoiding coffee until 9 am and writing down how you feel before that first sip.

You should notice that in the second week, while you won’t feel sluggish, you may notice you aren’t quite perked up yet.

Coffee's effects take an average of 45 minutes to kick in

Developing better habits with coffee

Feel like you’re in a coffee funk? Want to curb bad habits? Follow Conatum’s five golden rules to develop better habits with coffee:


Drink 45 minutes before you need to be ready to attack the day


Ditch sugar & use natural sweeteners


Grind your beans to pack more anti-oxidants in every cup


Drink during/after eating to prevent blood sugar from dropping


Avoid coffee at least six hours before bed

When NOT to drink coffee

As a coffee brand, you’d think we would be telling you there’s never a bad time to have coffee. Truth be told, there is. If you wanted to have a good night’s sleep and let the body rest after exercise, you need to understand the ideal time to avoid coffee.

A 2013 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine 2 found that “caffeine taken 6 hours before bedtime has important disruptive effects on sleep”. Suppose you’re someone who would grab a quick coffee or energy drink after work to perk up before hitting the gym or training. In that case, the immediate booster will have effects that linger hours later when you’re hitting the hay. Developing a bad habit of having higher caffeine intake later in the day can “have detrimental effects on daytime function”.

If you’re used to waking up the day after a gruelling workout and can feel delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) setting in, imagine what the receptors in your brain feel from taking too much caffeine later in the day.

Everyone is different, though, and it helps to keep a written record of times when you have a higher caffeine intake later in the day. You can compare it with how you feel the next day to get an idea of how caffeine reacts.

Want to get a good night's sleep? Have a coffee cut-off.

Understanding the benefits of coffee & your health

That isn’t to say drinking coffee regularly doesn’t come without health benefits. Coffee is great to have when you drink the right amount. Some of the basic health benefits of coffee would include:

  • Improved glucose production
  • Healthier liver enzymes3
  • Increase in polyphenols, which have a protective anti-oxidant effect4
  • Boost metabolism and help burn fat5
  • Lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes6

These are some of the broader ways coffee can help with health, but what about health as part of your daily routine? What can having a coffee earlier in the morning do for someone? And will an extra cup a day be as good as apple are at keeping doctors away?

Typically, when we think about what coffees does after we drink it, we think of someone who is alert and ready to go! There’s more to that, though. After someone has had coffee, the body will react by increasing brain function in several areas. You would see your mood lift, your memory improve & your reaction times become just that little bit sharper.

Understanding the benefits of coffee & exercise

If you’re someone who trains early in the morning, that first cup can help reaction times while everyone else is mentally trying to catch up. A study found that taekwondo athletes given caffeine before training had “improved reaction time prior to the first combat [and] increased the intensity of round 1 of the first combat”7.  While it won’t see you coming out all guns blazing, drinking coffee does benefit from helping the body become more aware.

Coffee takes its time to get to work. This means it lends itself better to endurance and cardio slightly better than strength/resistance training.

You’re better to drink coffee when getting ready to carry out activities like:

  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Rowing
  • Sparring
  • HIIT
  • Circuit Training/Sprints

Anytime you know you’ll be elevating your heart rate for longer periods, having coffee is a good idea. While studies have indicated that caffeine may help delay the onset of muscle stiffness and fatigue 8 later in a resistance-based workout, there’s no definitive evidence yet that coffee is the key to hitting new personal bests on the weight bench.

And don’t forget, you want to drink a healthy amount of coffee before exercising. Too much early in the day can knock you for six. As your adenosine receptors try to adjust after a workout and the intervening hours, you could find yourself feeling irritable or anxious for no real reason in the middle of the day.

Caffeine can shift muscles to burn fat more quickly & preserve glycogen stores

Knowing what the right amount of coffee is

Asking someone how big a cup of coffee should be is like asking someone how long a piece of string is. Think about your favourite mug you have at home. Could you reliably say it houses the same volume of coffee as the first cup you pour in the office? Do you have fancy espresso cups you use every day?

Coffee volume, and caffeine levels, can vary wildly. Just look at the sizes and caffeine of small coffees from leading UK coffeehouses 9

Brand Size (name Size (ml) Caffeine (mg)
Starbucks Tall 254 150
Costa Small 354 185
Nero Regular 354 160
McDonalds Small 354 71

A rule of thumb is that a total daily amount of around 500mg or below of caffeine is a good thing. If you do have a habit of going over, it does help to know that drinking too much coffee does not have “potential detrimental effects of coffee on our arteries when drunk in moderation”, according to the British Heart Foundation.10

Between you and me, take two to three

How do I know if I'm drinking too much coffee?

It’s easy to say drink coffee in moderation, but what does it look like if you’re drinking too much?
Apart from the sensation of the jitters, signs you’re drinking too much coffee would include:

  • Restlessness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Short attention span
  • Talking too much
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

These clearly won’t all come on at once if you’ve had an extra cup or two on a rare day, but overdoing it can be bad. Your body won’t react too kindly and will let you know. Given that it can take the average person between 5-6 hours for caffeine to metabolise 11, those are symptoms you don’t want to hang around and ruin your day.

Making better choices with coffee

Now that you know about the benefits and drawbacks of the role coffee can place in exercise and overall health, get to know what starting the day with better coffee is. Say bye-bye to boring instant, and hello to Conatum coffee.

We offer ground and whole beans for individual purchase or subscription. Why not get a bag in your preferred style and see what Conatum can do for you.


  2. Christopher Drake, Ph.D., F.A.A.S.M., Timothy Roehrs, Ph.D., F.A.A.S.M., John Shambroom, B.S., Thomas Roth, Ph.D. –