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Coffee is one of the most heavily researched commodities and studies have spanned decades. There is still much debate and confusion regarding coffee, mainly whether it’s good or bad for you. To be honest, it is both. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy when exercising and trying to get in great shape so here we will discuss the pros and the cons, and the right time to drink coffee to get the best benefits.

Exercise benefits

Until 2004, caffeine was a banned substance by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). That’s right, it was on the same banned list as all performance enhancing steroids. Why? Because it works! Roughly 8 cups of coffee was perceived by the IOC as a deliberate attempt by an athlete to gain an advantage on the competition. Presently not a banned substance, it is still being monitored for its performance enhancing attributes.

Cre8 Fitness are pro coffee or caffeine pre-workout as we ourselves either supplement caffeine or drink coffee before we train to ensure we are focused but also because of what has been found by various studies.

According to Houglum, J., Harrelson, G., and Leaver-Dunn, D., (Principles of Pharmacology for Athletic Trainers, 2005) there may be three ways in which caffeine can affect the performance of an athlete.

  1. Caffeine may provide improved endurance by increasing stored fat availability (for use as energy) and conserving glucose stores. If this is correct, athletes may be able to last longer in their activity before they get fatigued.
  2. Caffeine may increase the strength of a muscle contraction through the stimulation of specific ions within the muscle.
  3. Caffeine has a direct effect on the central nervous system as a stimulant. Caffeine can increase alertness, increase motor unit recruitment, and alter the perception of fatigue.

In a study conducted in 2008 by K. Woolf, W.K. Bidwell and A.G. Carlsen, published in the “International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism,” scientists studied the effects of caffeine on power and intensity of training. Participants were given either caffeine or a placebo, then performed a leg press, chest press and maximal anaerobic test, known as Wingate. When subjects ingested caffeine, they could lift more weight during the chest press and had a longer time to fatigue during the Wingate test. Both results conclude that caffeine can increase muscle power.

Another recent study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism supports and confirms the above with the following findings. The study tested the effect of consuming 4 mg of caffeine per kg of body weight prior to strength training on self-selected exercise volume. The study participants were professional athletes who were self-classified as either “sleep deprived” or “rested.” They performed four sets of bench press, squats, and bent over rows at 85% of the 1RM. They lifted each exercise to voluntary failure. Having ingested the caffeine, the sleep-deprived group lifted significantly more reps than the placebo sleep-deprived group. The caffeine sleep-deprived group performed equal volume of work as a rested placebo group (no caffeine but adequately rested). The group that was rested and ingested the caffeine voluntarily lifted the greatest number of reps of all, whereas the sleep deprived placebo group (no caffeine but tired) self-selected the least volume of all.

In summary, caffeine before a workout will help you get the most out of your sessions and help maintain your focus.

Antioxidant Power

Another reason to drink coffee is that numerous studies have found that coffee is most people’s single greatest contributor to their total antioxidant intake. Coffee increases antioxidants in the blood, and a study in the journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry in 2001 found that coffee has significantly more antioxidant activity than cocoa, green tea, black tea or herbal tea – a finding which I’m sure many of you will be surprised at.

Things to consider when drinking coffee

  • Coffee is one of the most sprayed crops in the world which can be full of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides all of which can cause serious health problems if you continue to expose yourself to them. With this in mind – always go organic with coffee to reduce your exposure to harmful toxins.
  • Research has shown that coffee may increase the risk of early miscarriage in normal pregnancy; if you’re pregnant, limit your intake to 1 cup of fresh coffee per day. Ideally, avoid altogether.
  • Never drink coffee post workout. This is possibly one of the most common mistakes we see in clients and general gym users. We are opposite a big health club and I would say we see most of their members leave that particular health club and jump straight into the coffee shop next door and then wonder why their gut fat keeps growing! Exercise elevates cortisol which is a stress hormone, and once you have stopped exercising the aim is to bring down your cortisol as quickly as possible to ensure the body is in an anabolic state which promotes muscle repair and growth. Coffee is a stimulant which raises cortisol levels, so leaving the gym and then hitting the coffee shop is not a smart idea if you want to be in great shape.
  • Avoid coffee after 4-5pm, as this is where cortisol levels should be coming down. Having coffee late at night will lead to disrupted sleep. It still amazes me that many have a coffee after an evening meal or just before bed and then wonder why they had a terrible sleep.
  • Black coffee is always best as it is always wise to steer clear of dairy – people often don’t count the dairy they have in their coffee which can be a lot in some heavy coffee drinkers. You should be wary of dairy because very few people can assimilate and digest dairy effectively. Dairy elicits a significant insulin response, which can increase your potential fat storage around the hips. I once heard a personal trainer say he gets all of his protein from Milk, no wonder his waist was twice the width of his chest!

Cre8 Fitness Coffee Rules

  1. Never drink after 4/5pm
  2. Consume 45 minutes before workout for exercise benefits, dripped/filter coffee has more caffeine than espresso.
  3. Always go organic
  4. Black coffee only for optimal body composition
  5. Never drink directly post workout – do not consume before 2 hours have passed.