Coffee - To Drink or Not To Drink?

It’s the daily routine of waking up and making a pot of coffee, letting its aroma fill your kitchen air.  Or the morning walk to the local cafe to grab your favorite cappuccino and sigh as its frothy milk hits your lips. However you take your coffee, chances are you’re part of the 83% of American adults that drink it.  We all know coffee makes us feel righteous, but did you know that it may actually good for you too?

Coffee Improves Physical Performance

Caffeine is one of the most thoroughly researched and proven performance enhancing drugs.  In fact, simply consuming 200mg of caffeine is really the only pre-workout supplement you'll ever really need to take.

Caffeine has been shown improve strength, muscle endurance, and anaerobic performance, as well as reverse the “morning weakness” experienced by many weightlifters and, last but not least, speeds up fat loss.

Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system which allows for greater neural drive during a lift.  As for weight loss, it speeds up your basal metabolic rate (BMR) which increases the total amount of calories you burn throughout the day.

Coffee Improves Health

We often hear about the damaging effects of coffee but many studies have shown it to have positive health effects including helping fight off cancers, type 2 diabetes, depression and increasing longevity.  The causal mechanism for this more than likely is coffee's abundance of antioxidants - which are molecules that help prevent cellular damage.

But as good as it tastes and as great as it makes you feel, is there such thing as too much of a good thing?

To reap the performance enhancing benefits of caffeine, the recommended dosing is 1.8 - 2.75 mg per pound of bodyweight.  For many of us, that means not exceeding 400mg in a given day. 

You can calculate how much you should have using this nifty calculator.  Once you find how much you can drink, it’s important to know how much caffeine is in the coffee you’re drinking.

On average:

One shot of espresso has 64mg of caffeine.
One 12oz cup (a regular mug size) of black coffee has 142.5 mg of caffeine.

Starbucks has about double the amount of caffeine in its coffee, so one 12oz cup of their Blonde roast has 285 mg of caffeine.

The Dark Side of Coffee

As mentioned above, coffee contains caffeine, which is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system.  Where coffee can be dangerous is when it is used as an energy crutch to mask poor sleeping habits.  If you're finding you need coffee to power yourself through your day, you're working off borrowed time.  Coffee should be a nice to have, not a necessity. 

The best remedy is to slowly wean yourself off coffee and fix your energy rhythms.  Once you can operate throughout the day without any energy crashes, start to add coffee back in.  When you are drinking coffee, make sure to drink it in the morning hours and stop drinking it entirely before 2 p.m. – as caffeine consumption after 2 p.m. will cause restlessness in your sleep.

From a performance stance, you will build a tolerance to caffeine, which diminishes the aforementioned benefits of taking it.  If you're a regular coffee consumer, your best best is to give it up during your deload weeks.  This allows you to lower your tolerance so that when you add it back, you reap it the benefits. 

If you find yourself addicted to coffee and consuming more than the recommended amount, here are two important things to remember:

Don’t go cold turkey. Instead, replace one cup of coffee with a decaffeinated tea or other non-sugary beverage. Try a chai tea latte – you’ll continue the routine of a delicious beverage but consume ⅕ of the caffeine.

Carry around peppermint either in the mint form to eat or the essential oil form to rub on your temples. You’ll get headaches when you cut caffeine, but peppermint helps reduce the severity of them.

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