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4 Best Coffees For Athletes in 2024

Caffeine is a tried and tested energy stimulant, and coffee is a natural and safe way to get your dose in. As such, many athletes turn to sports coffee as their go-to energy supplement.

So, what’s the best coffee for athletes? Here are our top four expert recommendations.

best coffees for athletes

Top 4 Best Coffees For Athletes Reviewed

  1. Death Wish Coffee Dark Roast – Top Pick
  2. Black Rifle Coffee Company Fit Fuel – Runner-Up
  3. Shock Coffee
  4. Hardcore Ground Coffee
ProductTotalTasteStrengthCaffeine RatioPrice vs. Quality
Death Wish391010109
Black Rifle38.5109.5910
Shock38108.59.510
Hardcore37.5109108.5

Athletes here at Torokhtiy enjoy a good cup of coffee. Some of us drink it daily, others occasionally. Everybody’s taste is unique, but we combined our thoughts and narrowed the list down to our top four favorite sports coffees:

TOP PICK

1. Death Wish Coffee Dark Roast

Death wish coffee dark roast
  • Item form: Ground, whole bean, pods
  • Item weight: 16 OZ (1lb or 454g) per bag
  • Coffee origin: Peru, India
  • Taste: Dark chocolate & black cherry
  • Roast shade/level: Dark roast
  • Bean type: Robusta & Arabica mix
  • Caffeine content: High, around 165mg per 6 OZ

Starting our list is the Death Wish Coffee Dark Roast. The name of this brand is a dead (no pun intended) giveaway of what you get: a strong, dark, and flavor-intense coffee, certain to wake you up.

Death Wish Dark Roast is available in both ground and whole beans at the same price to match your preparation preferences. It is also available in coffee pods, albeit slightly more expensive per serving. The coffee is certified USDA Organic, indicating organic growth and adherence to high inspection standards. The sourcing for both Robusta and Arabica is Fair Trade certified, ensuring environmentally and ethically responsible practices.

The coffee presents a dark chocolate and black cherry undertone, offering a pleasant blend of slight bitterness and sweetness. It has lower acidity due to the darker roast, making it gentle on your stomach even if you’re not a regular coffee drinker. If you find this coffee a bit too strong, consider exploring their Medium roast or Espresso options.

39 EXPERT SCORE

Death Wish Dark Roast is available in both ground and whole beans at the same price to match your preparation preferences. It is also available in coffee pods, albeit slightly more expensive per serving.


Coffee strength:0
Coffee taste:0
Caffeine ratio:0
Price vs. Quality:0

Positives:

  • Available in ground, whole bean, and pods
  • Low acid content
  • Fairtrade certified
  • USDA Organic
  • Allergen free

Could be better:

  • On the more expensive side
  • May prove too strong for some
Runner-Up

2. Black Rifle Coffee Company Fit Fuel

black riffle coffee company fit fuel
  • Item form: Ground or whole bean
  • Item weight: 12 OZ (340g) per bag
  • Coffee origin: Colombia, Brazil
  • Taste: Maple syrup, citrus, and malt
  • Roast shade/level: Medium
  • Bean type: Arabica
  • Caffeine content: Medium-high, not specified

Black Rifle is an American coffee company owned and operated by military veterans. They offer a wide range of coffee products, but they’re most well-known for specialized blends. For example, their Fit Fuel is, as the name suggests, purpose-made athlete coffee.

With this coffee, Black Rifle promises to kick-start your training and fuel your next PR. The blend is advertised as a medium roast, leaning slightly towards dark. The blend includes maple syrup and citrus notes with a malt finish. Malt leaves behind a pleasant aftertaste, and it won’t have you chugging water to wash it down.

The choice between whole beans or ground is up to you. The caffeine content is unspecified, but the manufacturer recommends 1-2 tablespoons per 6 ounces of water, depending on your taste.

38.5 EXPERT SCORE

With this coffee, Black Rifle promises to kick-start your training and fuel your next PR. The blend is advertised as a medium roast, leaning slightly towards dark. The blend includes maple syrup and citrus notes with a malt finish.


Coffee strength:0
Coffee taste:0
Caffeine ratio:0
Price vs. Quality:0

Positives:

  • Made for athletes
  • Quality Arabica beans
  • Pleasant malt finish
  • U.S.A made

Could be better:

  • Caffeine content is unspecified; you’ll have to dose it manually

3. Shock Coffee

Shock coffee
  • Item form: Ground or Whole bean
  • Item weight: 16 OZ (1lb or 454g) per bag
  • Coffee origin: South America
  • Taste: Pure dark coffee
  • Roast shade/level: Dark roast
  • Bean type: Arabica & Robusta mix
  • Caffeine content: High (up to 50% higher than regular)

Shock Coffee is your go-to drink for a high-octane kick. It has been used by United States Military personnel across military bases worldwide for almost two decades.

This dark roast coffee is made for those who appreciate a pure coffee experience. With a caffeine content advertised as 50% higher than regular coffee and no additional flavoring, it offers a strong, robust taste. For brewing, the recommended dosage is two tablespoons per six ounces of water.

Shock coffee instagram
Photo by @petaly_k

It has a shelf life of one year after opening, making it a suitable choice for occasional drinkers. Sold in 1lb bags (16 ounces or 454 grams), or packs of three 1lb bags, it sells at a slightly below-average price option compared to similar coffees.

38 EXPERT SCORE

This dark roast coffee is made for those who appreciate a pure coffee experience. With a caffeine content advertised as 50% higher than regular coffee and no additional flavoring, it offers a strong, robust taste.


Coffee strength:0
Coffee taste:0
Caffeine ratio:0
Price vs. Quality:0

Positives:

  • Strong, used by military personnel
  • Pure dark roast coffee
  • 50% more caffeine per serving
  • Inexpensive

Could be better:

  • Smaller packaging (12 OZ vs. usual 16 OZ)

4. Hardcore Ground Coffee

Hardcore coffee dark roast
  • Item form: Ground
  • Item weight: 16 OZ (1lb or 454g) per bag
  • Coffee origin: Unspecified
  • Taste: Pure dark coffee
  • Roast shade/level: Dark
  • Bean type: Arabica & Robusta mix
  • Caffeine content: High, around 150mg per 6 OZ

Last but not least is Hardcore Coffee’s trademark, Strong Coffee. This high-caffeine pure dark coffee packs a big bunch.

Hardcore coffee is produced by Copper Moon Coffee MAP, with a reputation for high-quality standards. As the name suggests, the caffeine content is high. It is advertised as having 1.5-1.6 times the amount of average morning coffee, which typically contains 95 milligrams of caffeine per serving. Despite not specifying the origins of the coffee beans, it holds both Orthodox Union Kosher and USDA Organic certifications, ensuring a quality production process. The coffee is allergen and gluten-free, emphasizing its commitment to consumer safety.

It's important to note that Hardcore maintains low stock levels to prioritize freshness. This commitment to quality often leads to swift sell-outs, and online resell prices can be double the original cost.

37.5 EXPERT SCORE

As the name suggests, the caffeine content is high. It is advertised as having 1.5-1.6 times the amount of average morning coffee, which typically contains 95 milligrams of caffeine per serving.


Coffee strength:0
Coffee taste:0
Caffeine ratio:0
Price & Quality:0

Positives:

  • Strong, 1.5-1.6 times more caffeine
  • Allergen and gluten-free
  • USDA Organic seal
  • OU Kosher certified

Could be better:

  • Low stock
  • Prices vary

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Is Coffee Good For Athletes?

After tea, coffee is the second most-consumed beverage worldwide (besides water). In the U.S. alone, data shows that as much as 75% of the population regularly consumes coffee, with 49% reporting daily intake – and similar trends can be seen globally. Coffee has cultural and social significance, but undoubtedly, the main reason why people drink it is the pronounced energy surge that accompanies it. The main fuel behind coffee, of course, is caffeine.

Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant that affects the Central Nervous System (CNS). To avoid turning this into a chemistry class and going on too many tangents, you should know that it essentially works by blocking off neural pathways that signal tiredness and fatigue to the brain. In simple terms, it tricks your brain by delaying the need for rest and sleep.

Coffee beans

So, should athletes drink coffee? Certainly, engaging in physical exercise depletes our physical and mental energy reserves. Athlete coffee can be a game-changer – whether your health and lifestyle leave you energy-deprived, affect your ability to exercise, or as a natural energy supplement to boost your workout effectiveness.

Benefits Of Drinking Coffee For Athletes

Why take an artificial sports supplement when you can have an organic (and fairly cheap) one instead? Here are some of the proven benefits of drinking sports coffee:

✅ Performance Boost

Research into caffeine's effects on physical performance is fairly robust and conclusive. The main takeaway from most studies is that it can be used as an ergogenic aid, AKA an energy enhancer. By resisting fatigue and tiredness, athletes can perform for longer periods and at a higher level.

Other studies showed that caffeine can increase performance during resistance training, i.e. help you lift more weight. Surprisingly, the effect of athlete coffee is greater in male athletes, though it’s significant to both genders.

✅ Cognitive Improvement

Daily coffee consumers have a saying akin to “Don’t talk to me until I had my first coffee.” You don’t have to be an expert on coffee to notice that caffeine, a natural CNS (brain) stimulant, gives you a mental boost.

Studies looking at the effects of caffeine on work-related performance showed a correlation with increased alertness, sustained reaction time, and reduced likelihood of cognitive failure. These mental improvements can easily translated into physical exercise and are especially good for when you’re doing prolonged cardio and endurance workouts. That said, sports coffee should be used as a dietary supplement to enhance your workout not as a substitute for rest and sleep.

✅ Exercise Recovery

When you eat, your body converts carbohydrates into glucose, with excess glucose stored as glycogen in muscles and the liver for energy reserves. During exercise, this stored glycogen breaks down into glucose to fuel the body. Coffee enhances muscle glycogen recovery and regulates glucose and insulin levels when combined with a carbohydrate-rich meal. In simpler terms, coffee aids in faster energy replenishment, facilitating a quicker recovery process.

Woman drinks coffee after training

✅ Pure Caffeine

Nowadays, you can find various caffeine-based products, especially energy drinks and sodas. However, these, more often than not, contain excess sugar, artificial flavoring, food additives & preservatives, etc. all of which contribute to high-calorie levels and concerning chemical content.

Meanwhile, home-brewed black coffee is arguably the purest way to ingest caffeine besides chewing raw coffee beans. Subjectively, it may not be the tastiest, but it’s certainly the healthiest. Not to mention, brewing your own coffee is much cheaper than purchasing canned drinks every day.

How to Choose the Best Coffee for Working Out?

Lots of people drink coffee, but many don’t think too hard about it. If you’re thinking about getting more serious about coffee, here are some things to help you choose:

1. Coffee Preferences

Personal taste is subjective, and for those exploring coffee preferences, here are key pointers: First, choose between the two common coffee bean types: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is favored by casual drinkers for its smoother taste and lower caffeine, though it comes at a higher cost. Robusta is stronger with higher caffeine content and is usually more budget-friendly.

Next, consider the roast level: Light roast preserves natural flavors and high caffeine, a common choice for coffee purists. Dark roast offers a dense, smoky aroma, often commercially flavored with options like chocolate or caramel, but has lower caffeine due to prolonged roasting. Medium roast offers a balance of both, appealing to a larger crowd.

2. Caffeine Content

According to research, 3-6 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight is the best dosage range for improving exercise performance. Subsequently, less than that showed minimal performance increases, while higher doses (e.g., 9mg) were associated with too many side effects.

a cup of coffee with beans

Naturally, this means that larger athletes should look for stronger caffeine concentrations; otherwise, they risk not getting enough or having to drink coffee more frequently. Luckily, food labels on coffee are pretty clear regarding how much caffeine content per serving you’ll receive, which should help you choose more easily. 

3. Arabica Vs. Robusta

The two main coffee bean varieties used in commercial coffee production are Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans have a sweeter, more complex flavor profile but contain less caffeine. Robusta beans have a more bitter taste but carry nearly double the caffeine content. Many strong coffee blends use a combination of both bean types to balance flavor and caffeine levels. 

Coffee machine preparing coffee

For example, Death Wish Coffee contains a mix of Arabica beans grown in Peru and India along with high-caffeine Robusta beans. While Robusta does lend a more bitter taste, the addition of smooth Arabica beans helps offset that while allowing for higher overall caffeine levels. The tradeoff allows these athletic coffee blends to offer strong caffeine content without being overwhelmingly bitter. Here’s a brief table summary of the coffee bean differences to paint a better picture:

Coffee BeanTasteAcidityCaffeine LevelSourceCostPopular flavorsPopular drinks
ArabicaSweetHighMediumHigher altitudesHigherFruity, floral,
aromatic
Flavored coffee
RobustaBitterLowHighLower altitudesLowerChocolate,
woody, spicy
Espresso

4. Coffee Type

Coffee is available in three forms: roasted beans, coffee powder, or pods. The primary distinctions lie in preparation and cost. Roasted beans embody coffee in its purest, freshest state but require manual grinding. Coffee powder stands out as the most economical and widely accessible option. While pods tend to be pricier and require a coffee machine, their convenience is unmatched, being ready in seconds with precise dosages every time.

FAQ

Is Coffee Good For Athletes?

Coffee has various performance-enhancing benefits relevant to athletes, as various research mentioned in the article has shown. These include, but are not limited to, regulating energy levels, improving cognitive ability, and assisting the cardiovascular system.

Does Black Coffee Affect Muscle Growth?

There is no relevant research suggesting black coffee affects muscle growth directly. That said, as demonstrated throughout the article, coffee carries other benefits significant to exercise performance and recovery, which could theoretically help you train harder and more often, thus increasing muscle mass at a faster rate than you would without drinking it.

Conclusion

An increasing number of athletes are turning to sports coffee as their natural fuel source. Drinking coffee before exercising can raise your energy level and heighten your senses, allowing you to push through the workout even on the most exhausting days.

Based on our expertise, the best coffee for athletes right now is Death Wish Coffee, but feel free to try the other ones as well and see what you like.

We’d also like to hear from you. Do you drink coffee? If so, what’s your preferred type? Let us know by leaving a comment, and remember to follow us on social media for more fitness content.

Also read:

References

  1. Andrew P. Smith, “Caffeine at work,” Human Psychopharmacology vol. 20, no. 6 (2005), 441-5
  2. Darren L. Richardson, Niel D. Clarke, “Effect of Coffee and Caffeine Ingestion on Resistance Exercise Performance,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research vol. 30, no. 10 (2016), 2892-2900
  3. Juan Mielgo-Ayuso, Diego Marques-Jiménez, Ignacio Refoyo, Juan Del Coso, Patxi León-Guereño, Julio Calleja-González, “Effect of Caffeine Supplementation on Sports Performance Based on Differences Between Sexes: A Systematic Review,” Nutrients vol. 11, no. 10 (2019), 2313
  4. Laís Monteiro Rodrigues Loureiro, Eugênio dos Santos Neto, Guilherme Eckhardt Molina, Angélica Amorim Amato, Sandra Fernandes Arruda, Caio Eduardo Gonçalves Reis, Teresa Helena Macedo da Costa, “Coffee Increases Post-Exercise Muscle Glycogen Recovery in Endurance Athletes: A Randomized Clinical Trial,“ Nutrients vol. 13, no. 10 (2021), 3335
  5. Larry W. McDaniel,  Kyle McIntire, Carmyn Streitz, Allen Jackson, and Laura Gaudet “The Effects Of Caffeine On Athletic Performance,” College Teaching Methods & Styles Journal (CTMS) vol. 6, no 1 (2010), 33-38.
  6. Nanci S. Guest, Trisha A. VanDusseldorp, Michael T. Nelson, Jozo Grgic, Brad J. Schoenfeld, Nathaniel D. M. Jenkins, Shawn M. Arent, Jose Antonio, Jeffrey R. Stout, Eric T. Trexler, Abbie E. Smith-Ryan, Erica R. Goldstein, Douglas S. Kalman, Bill I. Campbell “International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance,” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 18, no 1 (2021)

Why Trust Us?

With over 20 years in Olympic Weightlifting, our team does its best to provide the audience with ultimate support and meet the needs and requirements of advanced athletes and professional lifters, as well as people who strive to open new opportunities and develop their physical capabilities with us.

All products we select are primarily approved and tested by the Olympic Weightlifting Champion Oleksii Torokhtiy. Under his guidance, we provide honest and reasonable assessments of the products we review by checking their characteristics, packaging, design, comfort and durability features, and general product rating. We select products from only high-quality and trusted sports brands, thus vouching for their quality.

The product testing process is described in more detail here

Justin Estes

Author: Justin Estes
Coffee Consultant

Experience: 7 years

Justin Estes is an acclaimed finance writer, coffee consultant and fitness enthusiast based in Charleston, SC. He holds BS degrees in Finance and Accounting, fueled by several daily espresso shots.

Over 7+ years, Justin has cultivated specialty coffee expertise through roles spanning barista, trainer, roaster production assistant, competition judge, and brand strategist for leading companies. He thrives when connecting people over amazing coffee experiences.

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