Coffee; the energy provider of choice for many coaches and athletes alike! If you are reading this, chances are very good that you are one of millions and millions of adults that consume it on a regular basis. You have most likely reaped the rewards of coffee around the office or at home, but did you know that it can also improve the physiological aspect of your workouts as well? In addition to feeling more alert and awake, coffee and caffeine have additional qualities that can benefit athletic performance and take your workouts and health to the next level. From increased output in performance, to higher levels of exertion, to even increased fluid levels, that extra bit of caffeine can help you get the most out of your training!
According to jissn.biomedcentral.com, coffee/caffeine in the right dosage can improve your athletic performance, particularly in sustained high intensity activities (Goldstein, et.al). Sustained activities include things such as moderate- long distance running, circuit based strength training, or interval based strength training for an extended period of time. In simple terms, this is due to caffeine being absorbed throughout the tissue in your body and your bloodstream. This absorption has been shown to improve neural functions and muscle contractions (Goldstein, et.al). All of this plus increased energy expenditure during a sustained workout makes you feel alert, sharp, and less fatigued. Research is still out on short, maximal based exercise, but I personally feel a benefit from caffeine on efforts such as a maximal squat or a heavy clean.
In addition to increasing performance on the muscular and neural level, coffee increases your level of exertion and diminishes your perception of pain (coffeeandhealth.org). This is important for two reasons; you can increase effort and (in theory) move more load and/or move longer without compromising your technical efficiency, and keeping the pace up on components such as AMRAPs or timed runs will feel slightly easier. This is great for everyone, regardless of training level or style.
Although caffeine has a slight diuretic (dehydrating) effect on the body, the overall fluid intake counteracts the diuretic properties (coffeeandhealth.org). This results in increased fluid levels before or during exercise, which if you’ve read my blog on hydration, you know how important that is. While plain water should still be your primary fluid source, the water included in coffee will still prevent your hydration levels from being depleted. Proper hydration creates sweat, prevents fatigue, and cools your body down during exertion.
If you’ve been questioning whether that cup (or two) in the morning is helping or hindering your workouts, now you know! Coffee/caffeine provides small benefits that can increase the efficiency, intensity, and productivity levels of your training, which compounds overtime to get you better results! However, as with anything, it is important to note that these benefits only come with proper dosage, proper sleep, and proper recovery. If you have all those on lock, your body will thank you!