Running with Coffee; What You Need to Know About Caffeine
When the alarm sounds, I head straight for the coffee.
With 83% of Americans considering coffee an essential part of their day, I am not practicing this ritual alone. As a runner who recently stumbled into the organic coffee industry, I was curious about what kind of impact coffee was having on my training. A quick search turned up a dizzying number of published medical journals but narrowing my focus to coffee and running performance, I uncovered a the answers to a few burning questions. Fellow runners and coffee drinkers take note.
Coffee can boost Athletic Performance
The coffee at your local running club or bike shop is likely meant to stimulate social interaction but it can also stimulate your training. In the case of performance, caffeine is the important ingredient, coffee is just one vehicle.
After sipping coffee or downing an energy drink, caffeine goes to work preventing the brain’s receptors from absorbing adenosine, a natural calming chemical we all produce.
Couple this with a recent review in the International Journal of Sports Medicine showing that caffeine increases production of plasma catecholamines which allow the body to adapt to the stress created by physical exercise, and we have one powerful morning beverage. Faster reaction times with the ability to train longer and at a higher intensity is a powerful combination.
Coffee will not Dehydrate you
The caffeine from a reasonable level of coffee consumption will not cause you to go to the bathroom any more than drinking the same amount of another fluid. This runs counter to what many athletes have believed for years. Recent research has also struck down the myth that caffeine makes it more difficult for our bodies to regular temperature in hot weather.
Before your guzzle the nearest pot of coffee, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
Drink the right Amount for your Body
A moderate caffeine intake is considered to be 250 mg/day. Coffee varietal and roast type can impact caffeine levels but a medium strength cup (8 oz.) of commonly brewed coffee has about 150 mg of caffeine. In research studies, the amount of caffeine that enhances performance ranges from 1.5 to 4 mg/lb body weight taken one hour before exercise. For a 150 lb person, this comes to about 225 to 600 mg, or 1.5 to 4 cups of coffee.
Time your intake for Better Results
It takes about 60 minutes for caffeine to take effect, so start sipping one hour before your run. If you are planning a run of two hours or more, take half of your caffeine one hour before the start of your event and then divide the rest of the caffeine during the remainder of the run.
Plan to take 200 mg of caffeine for a three hour workout? Take 100mg one hour prior, 25 mg after hour one and 25 mg after hour two.
While coffee is the most widely consumed caffeine source, spiked gels, bars, supplements and even gum may provide an even bigger jolt and are easier to manage on race day.
Caffeine affects us all Differently
While the benefits caffeine can have on your training are attractive, many athletes have reported feeling jittery, anxious or having a racing heart rate. Use restraint and proper individual testing before deciding if is right for your body. A double shot of espresso on race day should not be the first time you incorporate caffeine into your strategy.
If you drink coffee regularly, your body will develop a tolerance to caffeine. In this case, it would be wise to taper your daily coffee intake by a half cup per day in the days prior to the big race. Then, kick it back up to your normal amount one hour before the actual event to regain the performance benefit.
Drinking coffee all day long will impact your sleep cycle. Trying to counter caffeine with sleeping pills, as the players on England’s soccer team did, is a dangerous cycle that will negate any positive effects that caffeine has on performance. Sleep is more important than caffeine.
As always, listen to your Body
Like the other elements of your training regimen, listen to your body when using caffeine. Proper training, a healthy diet and quality sleep are the best ingredients for high performance. Training always trumps supplements.
The side effects of caffeine intake are constantly being monitored and inspected. Future research may tell a different story. With moderate consumption of 1-3 cups of organic coffee without the addition of sugar or artificial sweeteners and you should be able to reap the rewards without much risk.
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