Coffee for RPE vs Sleep

A simple one: The podcast has spoken at length about reducing coffee intake (eliminating post lunch) to improve sleep.

Is this more important than the impact of caffeine on your workout - if, for example, it reduced the RPE by 3-5% and therefore allowed you to finish a workout you might have had to backpedal occasionally in or maybe miss a few intervals?

Assume here we’re talking about an afternoon workout - 3-5pm, as a late evening workout and a morning workout are easy to make a decision about.

Coffee = performance
Sleep = health

Decide what you want & what will get you there.

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I’m still discovering the benefits of caffeine for my training.

However, I think it’s probably easier to find a decent replacement for caffeine than for sleep.

Yes - I would experiment. Coffee right before a 3pm workout might be ok while right before 5pm could really affect sleep patterns. I’m more affected by a hard late day workout than I am by late caffeine but both of them negatively impact sleep, for me.

You’ll have to experiment. Long term, go for the better sleep - also mentioned on the Podcast often is that quality sleep trumps everything else as far as training and maintaining good health. I love caffeine for nailing workouts but I’d be asking the very same question if I had to workout later in the day.


I agree with @ibaldwin. Depending on how you metabolize caffeine, having it at 3 PM is probably okay (you would have to experiment). However, much later and it will almost definitely impact sleep. If you find that your workouts are too late or it impacts your sleep the I would double down on other things to maximize your workouts and lower RPE. Such as your preworkout meal, carbs during the workout, music, etc.
Overall, unless it’s an important race then I would almost always prioritize sleep over workout performance. If the difference between caffeine and no caffeine is just a couple back pedals at the expense of 1+ hours of quality sleep then, for me, the choice is easy.

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I love coffee and I can train so much harder when I drink it. It’s like I feel no pain when I’m caffeined up. Problem is, even if a drink a cup in the morning, I struggle to to sleep in the evening. I limit my self to decent shot of caffeine once, maybe twice a month before my hard VO2Max intervals. On the whole the increased sleep quality trumps the performance gains offered by coffee.

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I think taking caffeine to reduce RPE at the expense of sleep is not a good trade off.

Maybe if you are completely “failing” the workouts and caffeine allows you to complete them… but if this is the case I’d say there are other things to look at (e.g. are you getting the right nutrition, is your FTP accurate).

Caffeine before/during races makes sense.


Coffee = performance
Sleep = health + PERFORMANCE

A good night’s sleep has almost as much ergogenic effect for me as a big dose of caffeine, and it is so much more sustainable.

I have gradually restricted my caffeine intake from “no coffee pm” to “only before breakfast” (exception: races and tests), but I know this is quite extreme (I’m sensitive…).

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What I found:
And some spoilers from the conclusion:

In comparison to placebo, the ingestion of 6 mg∙kg−1 of caffeine did not improve the 800-m running performance in daily consumers of caffeine trained athletes, and did not modify the performance of a subsequent 800-m running test performed one day after the first. However, caffeine impaired the subjective and actigraphic sleep quantity and quality, but did not affect the autonomic nervous system during the night after the participants had performed the first 800-m running test.

Coffee doesn’t effect my sleep pattern, check that it does for you before worrying too much.

Broadly speaking, caffeine in the morning, 3 cups, exercise before work and at lunchtime. No caffeine for evening workouts.

Coffee has more benefits than just caffeine and just performance, it decreases your overall risk of death.

I know I’d die without coffee, so that statement is probably true.

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I’m still working on this but I’ve really been trying to limit myself to one, or maybe two cups of quality coffee per day. I switched over to being a volume drinker to using a pour over method and really enjoy the process, created a morning ritual (yes, addiction) to my daily indulgence.

If I need an afternoon pick me up, I switch to tea, typically Mate which, for some reason, doesn’t seem to affect sleep patterns in the same way coffee does.

Coffee would be the last “vice” I’d be willing to give up. :coffee:

1.) 800m is much shorter than my typical efforts, so for me personally the study is not relevant. I think for longer efforts the ergogenic effects of caffeine are very much agreed upon.
2.) They are taking it very late in the day. I’d never do that except for an A race.