Ah, coffee. For many of us, it’s just a prerequisite to engaging the world. For anyone who is not a morning person, it’s a mood potion, converting us from angry beasts into civilized members of society. For coffee drinkers, imagining a life where people can just hit the ground running, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed naturally, is an alien concept. How the heck can people function without go juice?
Of course, coffee is divisive all around. Those who enjoy, or even depend on coffee day to day will argue in its favor by pure experience. They will be eager to cite the health benefits that can come from a good cup of joe. Others will insist that it’s an unhealthy addiction and will cite the other side of things. Examples of this are what it can do to teeth, digestive systems, sufferers of high blood pressure, and so on. Still, others may have cultural or religious restrictions to their lifestyles that forbid stimulants. These things aside, what does unbiased, pure science say about coffee, and how effective is it for our workout routines?
Has science come to a conclusion on this at all? Yes, it has, and it may surprise you just how positive most findings are regarding the use of coffee before a workout. There are previsions and limitations here, and we’ll get to that. First, let’s talk about caffeine, the main active ingredient of coffee, how it works, and why.
Caffeine is a complex carbohydrate molecule produced by several natural sources such as cocoa beans, tea leaves and, of course, coffee beans. Coffee beans, by the way, are actually the hard pit of a berry, not a bean.
Caffeine is a stimulant, which causes elevated heart rate, dilation of the blood vessels, raised body temperature, higher levels of oxygen absorption, and production of adrenaline in the body.
Basically, it amps you up.
The trick is that caffeine takes about thirty minutes to enter the bloodstream. That sense of almost immediate wakefulness we get from coffee is partially psychosomatic; however, the real effects are definitely there. It’s at its peak effectiveness about an hour after being consumed. This is when the caffeine has been absorbed into your various bodily systems, and your biorhythms have been altered as desired.
Different people react differently to coffee. Biochemistry, unique to each person, can result in it being stronger, weaker, or even unpleasant. Some experience headaches, jitters, nausea, or other adverse effects. Others experience a positive natural high. Most people are in the latter category.
There’s more to coffee, of course, than just the caffeine.
Coffee’s Active Ingredients
Coffee contains antioxidants, riboflavin (vitamin B2), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), manganese, potassium, magnesium, and niacin (vitamin B3). These are healthy regulatory components in the human body and can help to reduce the risk of liver cancer and liver disease, help to reduce the likelihood of issues such as diabetes, and may even promote heart health. Some studies have shown that it may even help reduce Alzheimer’s and dementia in the elderly, though these studies are admittedly ongoing.
So, coffee isn’t inherently unhealthy, but what, if anything, can it do for a workout?
Coffee’s Workout Benefits
Coffee, as we said, amps up your body. It gives you a source of energy without the expense of fats or other issues that can come with some supplements or carb-loading. This means that your body will run a bit hotter and a bit harder, and allow you to burn more calories and work out with more vigor than you would without it.
Coffee isn’t a weight loss supplement, but the energy that it contributes to a workout can enhance the workout safely. Thus coffee can be a weight loss aid indirectly. Drinking a cup of coffee an hour before your workout can, indeed be beneficial. The vitamin complexes provided by it can also help your exercise recovery, reduce soreness, and enhance your mood as you perform your workout.
Coffee’s Negative Effects
Nothing in the cosmos is without its drawbacks, no matter how many benefits it offers. There’s something of a rule of equivalent exchange, and that goes for coffee as well. It’s bad for your teeth, for one thing, resulting in stains, not unlike smoking (which you should absolutely not do).
Strong black coffee can also wreak havoc on your digestive system. It can result in acid reflux, heartburn, diarrhea, excessive urination, and dehydration if consumed in excess.
Coffee increases the heart rate and raises blood pressure. This can make it mildly hazardous for people with existing high blood pressure, severe diabetes, and other such issues. Of course, the biggest problem with caffeine, in general, is that it can be habit-forming.
Caffeine is the largest addiction, alongside nicotine (which is to be avoided at all costs) in the world. While it’s certainly less severe than addiction to nicotine or various other substances, it’s still an addiction that’s easy to pick up.
Most people reading this are addicted to some level, be it through soda, tea, or coffee. If you’re into a clean, completely addiction-free lifestyle, which is an admirable goal, coffee is going to be detrimental to this goal in a lot of ways.
Offsetting the Negatives
Aside from the addictive nature and the risks to heart patients, a lot of the negatives of coffee can be balanced out. When you’re getting ready for a workout, your cup of coffee should be accompanied by lots of water, and possibly a light breakfast of fruit or egg whites. The water will reduce dehydration, and the food will help your body absorb the caffeine faster as well as reduce the digestive discomfort it can induce.
To decrease the tooth staining, brush after coffee with a whitening toothpaste. Brushing also gets rid of “coffee breath” quite effectively.
So, the ultimate question of whether coffee can help you work out better, harder, faster? Yes, it can. Is it perfect? No, it’s not. You can function fine without it, but if you already have a mild caffeine habit, use it to your advantage.
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