5 Interesting Facts about Coffee and Fitness

By: Cindy Trillo

Coffee has suffered from a bad reputation over the past few decades, blamed for causing a series of adverse health issues and known for being fairly addictive.  In recent years, however, the tide has slowly been changing as a number of health professionals have started documenting the many benefits of coffee, particularly for those who enjoy training and keeping fit.

Photo by bo smith on Unsplash

Photo by bo smith on Unsplash

1. Not all coffee is the same

Before we get into the pros and cons of coffee for fitness junkies, it’s important to establish what we actually mean by coffee.  Not all coffee is the same, which means that not all coffee can have a positive effect on your regular workout.

We’re not talking about the instant coffee that comes in a jar and that’s mixed with water to form a pseudo version of real coffee.  We’re talking about coffee that’s sold as coffee beans and that needs to be first ground, then filtered before serving.  It’s the kind of coffee that can be prepared using a range of coffee makers, known for their excellent filtering features.

Having said that, we’re not always referring to strong, black coffee either.  There are times when a weaker coffee or coffee with milk can be more effective than the pure shot, but we’ll get into all that a little bit later on.  So, if you do choose to enjoy a cup of coffee before working out, what positive effects are you likely to experience?

2. Speeds up fat loss and increases performance

Recent studies reveal that coffee before fitness can help to speed up fat loss and increase overall cardio and athletic performance.  There’s evidence to suggest that coffee consumed before exercise turns fat cells into energy sources, increases metabolism and thus helps burn more calories, even after you’ve stopped working out.  As a well-known suppressor of appetite, coffee will also generate the secondary effect of making you want to eat less in general.

The caffeine found in coffee stimulates the central nervous system and the heart, convincing your mind and body to work harder.  At the same time it releases a “happy neurotransmitter," known as dopamine, which puts you in a good mood as you exercise.  This happy feeling has a knock-on effect, encouraging you to enjoy training and filling you with a desire to keep on moving so that you train for longer and increase your fitness capabilities over time.

3. Reduces muscle pain

Robert Motl, professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois, spent time studying the effects of caffeine on pain during exercise.  As a former competitive cyclist, he was more than inspired by the area of investigation.  He found that those who enjoyed a cup of coffee before exercise tended to suffer far less from muscle pain while working out.

This means that coffee lovers are able to intensify their training experience, complete more repetitions, work at a higher resistance, run faster and exercise for longer.

4. Training in the morning is different to training at night

Many sources state that black coffee is the only kind of coffee to drink to really benefit from caffeine during exercise.  However, it seems that this isn’t strictly true.

If you work out in the morning, it could be a good idea to prepare your coffee with milk (soy or otherwise) to give you that extra kick of carbs and proteins and to boost your blood sugar levels after a long night’s sleep.  Timing is important, too.  Morning fitness junkies should aim to drink their coffee around one hour before exercising in order to fully benefit from the injection of caffeine as it reaches its stimulatory peak.

If you work out at night, on the other hand, coffee might not be as beneficial to you.  Caffeine has a tendency to remain in the body’s system for around four to six hours, which means that if you choose to work out at around 7pm or 8pm, you might then find it difficult to wind down in time for a good night’s sleep.  Whatever the benefits of caffeine are, they should never take precedence over the benefits and importance of sleep.

Unless you’re happy to move your exercise time to the morning, you only really have one other option and that’s to shift over to a different kind of coffee.  Dark roast coffee has less caffeine than light, while large coffee beans have less than small ones and old coffee has lower caffeine levels too.  So you could try swapping the type of coffee you enjoy during the evening if you really don’t want to stop exercising at night.

5. Yes, there is such a thing as too much coffee

Regardless of the many benefits, it is possible to OD on caffeine.  This can lead to dehydration or even cause the caffeine in your system to convert into a natural laxative.  So, be careful and keep to just a couple of cups of coffee a day, even if you plan to become the next Olympic number one.


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