8 Things Runners Should Know About Coffee
Caffeine (in coffee or otherwise) improves performance…
Hundreds of studies have shown that consuming caffeine before a physical challenge likely helps subjects go farther and faster than when they go without it. This effect holds true in studies of both endurance athletes and sprinters.
…but it works best when timed right…A study last year indicated that the best time to take caffeine for a performance boost is an hour before your event begins.
…and it’s possible to have too much.
Research shows that about three to six milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight is all you need to see benefits. (For a 68 kilogram person, that’s roughly 350 millilitres of strong coffee.) Higher doses don’t do more to improve performance, and you run the risk of developing negative side effects like dizziness, anxiety, and heart palpitations.
Coffee boosts your brain.
A review published earlier this year examined the difference between the effects of caffeine on its own and the effects of consuming it in coffee. Coffee contains a number of substances (including polyphenols) that have been shown to help people with dementia, stave off Alzheimer’s disease, and positively influence brain health.
Coffee isn’t proven to dehydrate you…
Studies have found drinking up to about five cups of coffee has little to no effect on hydration. (However, if coffee tends to “get things moving” for you before a run, consider replenishing what you’ve lost with an electrolyte-rich drink.)
…but you may not need to swallow it to reap benefits.
A recent study in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism suggests that receptors in your mouth can sense the presence of caffeine and boost your performance, even when you spit out the drink. Might be helpful in the later kilometres of a long race, when you’re not feeling up to ingesting any more gels.
Coffee may help post-exercise recovery, too.
One study had cyclists ride hard for two days in a row to put them in a glycogen-depleted state. Those who drank a recovery drink with carbs and caffeine rebuilt their glycogen stores by 66 percent more than those who drank only carbs.
You can do more than just drink coffee.
If a morning cup just isn’t enough, try topping your pancakes with coffee butter, whipping some coffee into a smoothie, or freezing coffee with herbs for a cold, caffeine-laced treat.