Should Runners Drink Coffee?
There is no shortage of research to backup the claim that coffee will improve your running performance. More specifically, caffeine helps you run faster and farther. Perhaps that’s why every early group run I’ve been part of has a pot brewing beforehand. It seems to be a way to get the system going, and jumpstart the legs.
My own personal pre-run morning ritual involves toast with peanut butter, a banana and one (or two) cups of coffee. I’ve found I run better after a cup of delicious black brew an hour or so before I hit the road. As it turns out, this is actually scientifically proven to be effective.
On the flip side, I almost always crash in the afternoon. Hard. Around 3 pm I hit a wall and go into a zombie state until getting a second wind around dinner. It doesn’t take a genius to know why, but I wanted to learn more.
Coffees and Running
I had a chance to talk with Dan Linstroth, founder of Kindly Coffee, a Minneapolis based specialty coffee roaster. As a runner himself, he knows quite a bit about coffee and it’s effect on runners. He shared that a 150 pound runner will see performance benefits from drinking 12 oz. of strong, black coffee about an hour before they run.
Since I weigh a little more, I get to drink a little more. “Coffee is really just a vehicle for delivering caffeine to the body.” says Lindstroth as we both sipped our afternoon cups. “The caffeine in coffee is really what’s giving you the performance boost. It doesn’t have to be coffee but I think it’s the best delivery system.” he says with a chuckle.
Caffeine essentially tricks your brain into thinking you’re not tired. Unfortunately, coffee gets used as a replacement for that other thing that helps you not feel tired; sleep! Using coffee this way could negate the performance benefits you could be receiving had you slept more. It may limit your potential.
Coffee vs Sleep
Getting your 5 – 10 miler in before work is hard. I’ve talked to so many runners who sacrifice sleep so they can cram more into their day. Coffee is often the drug of choice to boost productivity. It’s used by busy runners trying to run on sleep deprived bodies.
According to WebMD, “about 20% of Americans report that they get less than 6 hours of sleep on average.” That’s unfortunate because a sleep study at Stanford suggested 9 – 10 hours is optimal for top performance. Coffee is not a substitute for being well rested!
What if we Got More Sleep?
I bet we could all easily get 30 or 60 more minutes of sleep each night. Simply being more efficient during the day would help. Stop watching TV, or prevent yourself from getting sucked into a Facebook, YouTube or Wikipedia abyss that spits you out on the wrong side of midnight.
I love coffee and am certainly not advocating we stop drinking it. I do think we would enjoy it more if we didn’t need it to function on a daily basis. Imagine what you could accomplish if you were getting enough sleep AND enjoying the performance benefits gained from coffee? You could achieve your audacious goals!
Coffee’s Impact on Training
So the question isn’t, “should runners drink coffee”, but perhaps “what impact does coffee, (specifically caffeine), have on your training and overall wellness?” As a runner and the owner of a coffee company, Dan Linstroth set out to answer these questions for himself. I’ve asked Dan to share his discoveries with the Minneapolis Running community in the coming week(s).
If you have a question that you would like Dan to answer, please leave one in the comments.