But First, Coffee…
“Caffeine is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system, the heart, and possibly the ‘center’ that controls blood pressure,” all of which play a vital role in helping your mind and body push harder in a workout, says Heidi Skolnik, M.S., a sports nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Conditioning, Inc. “It can also increase the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, which effects pain receptors and mood” while you’re working out.
Plus, researchers found that when people caffeinated before a workout, they ate 72 fewer calories later in the day and had an easier time keeping cravings in check. Not a bad deal. Here’s how you, too, can make the most of your next brew.
Enjoy an a.m. cappuccino before the gym? Skolnik says timing can play an important role in your overall performance. “Caffeine is quickly absorbed from the stomach within 15 to 45 minutes of consumption, but it hits its peak stimulatory effects between 30 and 75 minutes,” she says. Drinking a cup about one hour before you work out is optimal, Skolnik says.
Bad news for night owls: If you lace up more often in the afternoon or evening, you might have to miss out on the workout-boosting benefits of coffee. Caffeine stays in your system for four to six hours after drinking.
Some facts about coffee
- Coffee ,when consumed in the right way ,can infact be used as a health and fitness enhancing tool
- In one research ,atheletes who consumed caffeine pre-exercise burned 15% more calories for three hours post –exercise ,compared to control group
- There is improved micro circulation ,pain reduction improved endurance ,muscle preservation and improved memory
- Coffee will optimize the benefits of exercise ,stimulating energy production and fat burning
- Coffee will speed up recuperation rather than continue mimicking the effects of exercise
- If you exercise in the evening ,you may want to skip out the coffee
Ori explained how coffee, when consumed in the right way, can in fact be used as a health and fitness enhancing tool. There are caveats, however, and there are also points of contention, where the details still have not quite been teased out.
Despite that, it is possible to draw up some general guidelines that will allow you to enjoy your coffee with minimal risk. You may even be able to reap valuable benefits from your habit, provided you’re willing to make some slight alterations to how you drink it.
Ori specifically pointed out the benefits coffee might have when consumed prior to working out, and this is also the focus of the featured article.
Other Reasons to Drink Coffee Before Your Workout
Contrary to much of the conventional advice, which tends to revolve around coffee’s ability to raise your blood pressure, coffee does appear to have certain functional benefits—if consumed pre-exercise—that are supported by science. As reported by Health Magazine:2
“[A] Spanish study, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism,3 found that trained athletes who took in caffeine pre-exercise burned about 15 percent more calories for three hours post-exercise, compared to those who ingested a placebo.
The dose that triggered the effect was 4.5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. For 150-pound woman (68 kg), that’s roughly 300 mg of caffeine, the amount in about 12 ounces of brewed coffee, a quantity you may already be sipping each morning.”
According to Ori’s research, coffee can increase your metabolism by up to 20 percent, which seems to be in line with the Spaniards’ finding. Besides providing you with a temporary metabolic boost, other functional benefits of a pre-workout cup of coffee include:
According to Health Magazine, Japanese researchers recently discovered that people who were not regular coffee drinkers experienced a 30 percent boost in capillary blood flow after drinking five ounces of regular coffee, compared to those drinking decaf.
Improved blood circulation typically equates to improved oxygenation of your tissues, which may boost your exercise performance.
The featured article notes research from the University of Illinois, which found that a caffeine dose equivalent to two or three cups of coffee taken one hour prior to a half-hour-long workout reduced the participants’ level of perceived muscle pain.
This pain reduction could allow you to push yourself just a bit harder, which is important during high intensity exercises.
Research from the University of Georgia, published in the March 2007 issue of The Journal of Pain,4 reported very similar findings. Here, consuming the equivalent of two cups of coffee an hour before training reduced post-workout muscle soreness by up to 48 percent.
To put this into perspective, studies using naproxen (Aleve) only achieved a 30 percent decrease in post-workout muscle soreness, and aspirin produced a 25 percent decrease.
A 2005 meta-analysis5 concluded that caffeine can reduce your perceived level of exertion by more than five percent—effectively making your exercise feel “easier.”
Moreover, caffeine improved exercise performance by more than 11 percent, which appears to be related to the reduction in perceived level of exertion.
According to Ori, coffee triggers a mechanism in your brain that releases a growth factor called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). Besides the brain, BDNF also expresses itself in your muscles, where it supports the neuromotor—the most critical element in your muscle. Without the neuromotor, your muscle is like an engine without ignition. Neuro-motor degradation is part of the process that explains age-related muscle atrophy. So in this respect coffee may help maintain more youthful muscle tissue.
The featured article also notes recent research from Coventry University that supports this notion. In that study, they found that caffeine helped offset age-related loss of muscle strength, again suggesting that caffeine may help preserve your muscles as you age, and reduce your risk of injuries.
When and How to Drink Coffee for Maximum Benefit
As I mentioned earlier, there are some caveats to consider. You can easily eliminate any health benefits that coffee might provide by adding milk, creamer, sugar or artificial sweeteners to your cup, for example. Also, while some of the studies noted above used caffeine opposed to coffee, I agree with experts like Ori who warn that caffeine in isolation could be quite toxic.
It’s important to remember that the natural blend of polyphenol antioxidants (including chlorogenic acids). Bioflavonoids, vitamins and minerals in coffee beans all work together to help neutralize the harsher effects of the caffeine.
Recent research from the University of Oslo, Norway, reveals that whole coffee possesses potent anti-inflammatory chemo-protective and anti-aging properties.
There are literally thousands of different natural chemical compounds in your brew, and science now suggests the synergy between them can pack a nice nutritional punch. You’re not likely to get this synergetic effect from caffeinated supplements and beverages like Red Bull! That said, some of the primary considerations and caveats will be discussed in the following sections.
Limit Your Consumption to One or Two Cups Per Day
Ori recommends having just one cup of coffee or one shot of espresso in the morning or before training, perhaps another cup during work and that’s it for the day. Coffee is a potent substance, and can have an adverse effect on your adrenal glands if consumed in excess. If you’re stressed, coffee can actually help you resist fatigue, hunger and hardship but you can overdo it; drinking a whole pot of coffee is going to put you at risk for adrenal exhaustion. Also make sure you’re properly hydrated, as coffee has a diuretic effect.
Caffeine can also cause a process in your brain called glutamate re-uptake inhibition, meaning it inhibits the cellular re-uptake of glutamate—an excitoneurotransmitter essential for keeping you alert. Like other neurotransmitters, glutamate must be tightly regulated.If your caffeine intake is too high and chronic, such as due to ingestion of caffeinated energy drinks, it can cause glutamate excitotoxicity.