It could be as simple as “caffeine energizes you and you need energy to exercise, the end;” but, is it?
I remember hearing somewhere years ago that some sprint runners would chug a cup of coffee right before their run and I’ve often wondered if they had to deal with bathroom-emergencies, acid reflux, or dehydration if that is truly a thing they do. What are the pros and cons when it comes to coffee and athletics?
Apparently, there are plenty of benefits to boosting your athletic performance with a kick of caffeine.
Have you noticed that many extra strength pain relievers include caffeine in their formulation? That’s because caffeine makes the blood move more quickly through the bloodstream and may also help to open up your blood vessels itself; constricted blood vessels are often a cause of headaches and other types of pain. Coffee itself used to be utilized for headaches and I still grab a cup of coffee (and chase it with a cup of water) if I don’t have any ibuprofen on hand; the caffeine opens up your vessels and helps your body become more receptive to the hydration (dehydration is the most common cause of headaches). That means that whatever your athletic training, caffeine may be able to help with the soreness after or pain during your workout or training! Experts recommend paying attention to what you can handle and not exceeding more than one or two cups before or after your workout, depending on your tolerance especially. Remember that caffeine also accelerates your heart rate, which, when combined with cardio workouts especially, could lead to your heart working too hard if you’ve overdone it with either.
Some studies have also shown that a cup of coffee after your workout can help your body recover and reenergize more quickly, not only getting you through the remainder of the day more efficiently, but also preparing your body for the next workout in a more significant way. Boosting the amount of energy your body has post-workout means that you’ll have that much more in you to push yourself beyond today’s limits tomorrow. Black coffee paired with complex carbs and natural proteins is one of the best post-workout combinations; there are a ton of chemicals, empty calories and possibly even unnecessary sugars in the protein drinks and smoothies many people go for automatically. Plus, they don’t boost your energy and healing process the way that caffeine does.
Coffee is high in antioxidants and has been linked with lower rates of cancers and other diseases, like heart disease. Antioxidants boost your immune system and are what help your body heal after damage. This is vital when working out, especially when you’re pushing your body beyond its limits, ripping and regrowing muscles, for example; the antioxidants in coffee will boost the healing process, adding to the ways the brew helps you push further the next time you workout.
If you’re working out at the end of the day, a nice cup of black coffee or an espresso shot can help you push through the exhaustion so that you don’t end up on the slippery slope of skipping a day. And, if you workout earlier in the day, a cup of coffee afterwards will ensure that you’re still set to tackle whatever other obligations you have for the day. This is especially great for the days when you push yourself extra hard but don’t want your workout to be the end of your day entirely!
Finally, of course, black coffee has been linked with accelerated digestive processes, which means that if your workout is geared toward weight-loss and toning, black coffee before and/or after can definitely boost those efforts.
So, it seems like coffee and athletics can mix. Just make sure you know your body and consult your doctor if you have concerns. Remember the affect coffee can have on your heart, especially if you’re not used to it. Also remember that coffee is not a substitute for water and can sometimes have a dehydrating effect for some people. If you’re drinking coffee, make sure you’re matching (if not exceeding) that intake with your water intake! Finally, these ideas only work best with black coffee–creamers and sugars are just added, empty calories that counteract any weight-loss efforts, contribute to exercise-deterring feelings and diseases, and may make you crash before you can even get onto the treadmill!