Coffee had a bad rap for decades from health experts. Many proclaimed that coffee and caffeine are addictive and even linked them to higher rates of cancer and heart problems. However, later and better-designed studies paint a strikingly different picture. New research has linked coffee to lower risk of diabetes, improved mental health, and better exercise performance, which is our topic today!
Performance-Enhancing Benefits Of Coffee
- Increases strength and endurance.
- Helps you recover from tough workouts faster.
- Reduces post-workout pain better than over-the-counter medicines.
- Preserves muscles and increases power, especially, for the elderly.
- Aids in weight and fat loss.
1. Increases Strength And Endurance
You may turn to coffee to get rid of mental fogginess and sharpen your focus. But did you know that coffee – thanks to its caffeine content – can benefit your strength and endurance levels, too?
Strength and endurance tests like running and cycling can prove taxing to the body. But according to a study published by the American College of Sports Medicine, about 3 mg to 9 mg of caffeine for every kilogram of body weight can increase performance by up to 2%.1 This may not sound much. But in a 35-minute race, it translates to an 80-second improvement.
The researchers are yet to determine the exact mechanism behind the strength and endurance gain. But one thing is for sure according to the study, caffeine enhances one’s performance, especially, in intense activities that involve large muscles.
2. Reduces Recovery Time After Tough Workouts
Getting stronger, fitter, and faster isn’t just about lifting weights and pushing your muscles to their limits. Recovery and rest are also essential in any fitness program. Without proper recovery, muscle growth is stalled and peak performance becomes impossible. Worse, the lack of rest increases one’s risk for injuries.
And when talking about recovery, glycogen is the center of the conversation.2 It is the stored form of glucose, and it’s the body’s primary source of energy during exercise. The faster an athlete can replenish his glycogen stores, the better prepared he is for the upcoming training session or competition.
And the good news: Eating carbohydrate-rich foods and drinking coffee can fill up those tanks fast!
A study – published by the American Physiological Society – took highly-trained participants who were trained for up to 15 hours per week, and put them into 2 exhausting trials.3
On the first trial, the participants were given a 4-hour recovery period along with 4 g of carbs for every kilogram of body weight. The second trial, on the other hand, fed the participants with 4 g of carbohydrates and 8 mg of caffeine for every kilogram of body weight.
The end of the study saw the athletes have 66% higher glycogen stores in the second trial than in the first. If you have that much extra fuel for the next training day, you will surely perform better, faster, and stronger.
3. Reduces Post-Workout Pain
Post-workout pain sucks. Simple habits and routines like brushing teeth, putting pants on, and walking become a struggle. Others take comfort in the knowledge that experiencing post-workout pain means they’re getting stronger and their muscles are growing bigger.
But wouldn’t reducing the soreness and pain be nice, allowing you to carry on with your day with a little less discomfort?
Well, a study led by a former competitive cyclist – a professor from the University of Illinois – suggests that downing up to 3 cups of coffee before an intense workout can do just that!4
The study divided 25 college-aged and fit males into 2 groups. One had minimal caffeine consumption. But the second group consumed about 3 to 4 cups of coffee (about 400 mg of caffeine) every day. The heavy coffee-drinkers displayed steady and reliable pain reduction than the first group regardless of the exercise’s intensity.
And in another study from the University of Georgia, caffeine has been shown to reduce pain by 48%, blowing away medications like naproxen and aspirin.5
4. Gives The Elderly A Power Boost While Preserving Their Muscles
Age-related sarcopenia is a serious condition.6 People in their 30s – even folks with active lifestyles – lose about 3% to 5% of their muscle mass every decade. This loss not only reduces one’s strength, but also impairs mobility, lowers quality of life, and increases the risk of injuries.
And the worst part: Science is still baffled as to what causes age-related muscle loss. And if we can’t figure out the exact cause, we won’t find the best solution.
However, researchers and sports scientists from Coventry University hinted that caffeine may help preserve muscle tone while delaying the onset of age-related muscle loss.7
The study – showcased at the Society For Experimental Biology – examined caffeine’s effects on mice. Caffeine consumption didn’t benefit developing muscles according to the findings. But the researchers found that caffeine delivered positive ergogenic effect to older muscles.
5. Aids In Weight And Fat Loss
Caffeine – coffee’s most potent ingredient – is a common ingredient in weight loss and fitness supplements, and for a long list of reasons.
First on the list is glycogen sparing and increased utilization of free fatty acids. Yes, coffee doesn’t just increase glycogen intake when combined with carbohydrate-rich foods. A study involving 8 subjects – who cycled to exhaustion – found that taking caffeine before a long bout in the gym reduces glycogenolysis by up to 55%.8
But even better: The same study saw the caffeine group increase their utilization of free fatty acids by 30%! Not only does coffee spare glycogen levels and increase endurance, it also burns more of the stuff you want to lose.
Moreover, caffeine’s thermogenic effects on humans have been proven time and again.9 Thermogenesis refers to the metabolic process that burns calories and increases body temperature. The higher the thermogenic effect, the greater the weight loss benefit.
Coffee-Making Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Cup
Yes! You can drink coffee the wrong way. And in this section of the post, we’ll look at what to do and NOT to when chugging down a cup of Joe to enhance your exercise performance.
1. Steer Clear Of Artificial Sweeteners And Cream
Artificial sweeteners can sabotage your efforts. Sugar, for example, has been known to cause a wide array of symptoms – from weight gain, higher levels of bad cholesterol, to abdominal obesity. Things that a fitness enthusiast like you hates!
The World Health Organization recommends keeping sugar consumption at 25 gm or less for adults.10 But your sugar intake can easily skyrocket if you pick the wrong coffee beverage. So, before you order a frappuccino or a variety of latte, be sure to ask, “How much sugar is in it?”
Artificial cream, on the other hand, oozes with corn syrup solids and trans fat.11 And the latter has been linked to a higher LDL and increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes. If you want to reap the benefits of coffee minus the setbacks posed by its creamier and sweeter varieties, go for pure, unadulterated black coffee.
Now, if you must add sweetener and a layer of cream, go for the healthier options like coconut sugar and grass-fed cream. But even then, you should only add a small amount.
2. Use Purified Water And Organic Beans
For the best coffee possible and to get the most out of it, you want to make sure you use the right ingredients.
You may not take the quality of the water you use when brewing a cup into consideration, but it’s one of the most important factors in play. You want to use water that passes the standards set by the Specialty Coffee Association of America – clear, odorless, and chlorine-free with only 150 mg of dissolved solids per liter.12
You also want to use organic, pesticide-free coffee beans when brewing. Having the USDA organic label means the coffee farmers have shown their entire growth and harvesting process, and passed the set standards.13
Coffee beans with the distinction have used very little chemicals, which are not deemed harmful to the environment. This means a cup of Joe made from organic means have almost zero pesticides (after washing and roasting), while tasting better than their non-organic counterparts.
|↑1||Black, Christopher D., Dwight E. Waddell, and Alexander R. Gonglach. “Caffeine’s ergogenic effects on cycling: Neuromuscular and perceptual factors.” Med Sci Sports Exerc 47, no. 6 (2015): 1145-58.|
|↑2||Glycogen Metabolism. National Center for Biotechnology Information.|
|↑3||Pedersen, David J., Sarah J. Lessard, Vernon G. Coffey, Emmanuel G. Churchley, Andrew M. Wootton, Matthew J. Watt, and John A. Hawley. “High rates of muscle glycogen resynthesis after exhaustive exercise when carbohydrate is coingested with caffeine.” Journal of Applied Physiology 105, no. 1 (2008): 7-13.|
|↑4||Gliottoni, Rachael C., and Robert W. Motl. “Effect of caffeine on leg-muscle pain during intense cycling exercise: Possible role of anxiety sensitivity.” International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 18, no. 2 (2008): 103-115.|
|↑5||Maridakis, Victor, Patrick J. O’Connor, Gary A. Dudley, and Kevin K. McCully. “Caffeine attenuates delayed-onset muscle pain and force loss following eccentric exercise.” The Journal of Pain 8, no. 3 (2007): 237-243.|
|↑6||Sarcopenia in older adults. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑7||Assessment of the ergogenic effect of caffeine supplementation on mood, anticipation timing, and muscular strength in older adults. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑8||Caffeine ingestion and muscle metabolism during prolonged exercise in humans. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑9||Caffeine: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of its thermogenic, metabolic, and cardiovascular effects in healthy volunteers. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑10||Sugars intake for adults and children: Guidelines. World Health Organization.|
|↑11||Trans fat. American Heart Association.|
|↑12||Water for Brewing Standards. Specialty Coffee Association of America.|
|↑13||Organic Labeling. United States Department of Agriculture.|