Coffee boost for workouts

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Coffee boost for workouts

Many of us rely on our morning cup of coffee to help us feel more alert, but new research says it can actually help us perform better in the gym too.

The caffeine in coffee makes exercise feel easier, improves attention and reduces symptoms of fatigue - and a cup at the right time can help us to exercise harder and for longer.

Studies show the optimum amount is 3-4mg of caffeine per kilogramme of bodyweight one hour prior to exercise. An average mug of instant coffee contains approximately 100mg of caffeine.

So for someone who weighs 61kg who wants to consume 3.5mgs of caffeine, that would equal 213.5mgs - or just over two average mugs.

This amount of caffeine enables gym bunnies to perform for 30 per cent longer, while improving alertness and the ability to sustain motor skills and helping persistence, vigour and output levels, according to a new report from the British Coffee Association.

Studies have shown how caffeine improves endurance and performance in cycling, high intensity running, repeated sprinting and sports such as football and rugby. Some athletes have said they consume caffeine to enhance their endurance, alertness and motor skills. These benefits result from the actions of caffeine in the brain where it reduces the chemical messages that normally induce fatigue, and stimulates energy production and fat oxidation.


However, nutrition experts warn of the associated dangers of continued reliance of caffeine for sports.

"The short-term effects of caffeine on fatigue, endurance and performance are well established and for many, drinking large volumes of coffee and caffeine energy drinks, this is the norm," says Dr Gill Hart, clinical biochemist, YorkTest Laboratories.

"However, there are many negative effects of caffeine, including insomnia, anxiety, headaches, palpitations and high blood pressure that also come into play. High caffeine consumption can also cause high levels of homocysteine in the blood, raised levels of which are associated with strokes, heart attacks, dementia and infertility - it's important to not only think about the quick fix but the longer term on your health too.

"Coffee is a proven ergogenic (performance enhancer) and weightloss aid, but one must exercise prudence when incorporating it into the diet," Jack Braniff, independent personal trainer from has written at length about the pros and cons of drinking coffee for fitness on his website, highlighting many of Dr Hart's concerns.

However he says it's still worth drinking. "Coffee is a proven ergogenic (performance enhancer) and weightloss aid, but we do need to be careful. One must exercise prudence when incorporating coffee into the diet. Too much caffeine causes stress on your adrenal system, which can lead to poor sleep and increased cortisol levels (stress) and, ultimately, weight gain.

"Some people tolerate caffeine better than others, that's why everyone needs to be careful about how much they're having. The recommended daily dose for an average person is 400mg, which equates to around four cups of coffee each day, obviously this is dependent on what coffee we're drinking. If we keep within this bracket, we should not experience the associated negative side effects.

"I would recommend drinking coffee for three particular purposes, including pre-workout to maximise performance, in the morning to help you wake up and for general weight loss."


Around 70 million cups consumed every day in the UK, and contrary to popular belief exercise lovers who drink it do not necessarily need to compensate by increasing their intake of water.

Recent research found any diuretic effect of caffeine in a normal cup of coffee is more than balanced by the amount of water in the drink - leading to hydration.

Recent research from Brita reveals that 51 per cent of us drink caffeinated drinks during the day, with 55 per cent drinking three or more cups of coffee per day. Nutritionist Jo Travers says: "Caffeine is scientifically proven to help you when exercising, however, it's an unpredictable substance.

"When drinking coffee you can't be sure on the amount of caffeine you are ingesting. It's important to stay hydrated with water as it improves performance and helps keep the body running at an optimum temperature. Staying hydrated will also improve your concentration levels, allowing you to get more out of your workout."

The research from Brita also revealed that 62 per cent of us only drink water when we are really thirsty. "Getting thirsty is actually one of the very last physical effects dehydration has on the body so the damage may have already begun," says Travers.

Mike Gleeson, exercise biochemistry professor at Loughborough University, says: "Studies show that if you consume enough caffeine at the right time, it can enhance your physical performance.

"New research shows black instant coffee consumed one hour prior to exercise can improve endurance performance in a similar way to pure caffeine (of equivalent amounts), which suggests coffee may be a very effective way to consume caffeine before exercise.

"Studies have found that caffeine consumption has a greater effect on physical performance in those who are recreationally active than in trained athletes, and can improve cycling, running, and high-intensity sports such as football and rugby over a 80-90 minute period"'

For pregnant women the NHS recommends consuming no more than 200mg of caffeine per day from all sources. - Daily Mail

Tips by Mike Gleeson

Exercise biochemistry professor

* Drink coffee one hour before morning or lunchtime exercise. If you want to exercise in the afternoon or evening, enjoy a coffee with your lunch to avoid the effect of the lunchtime dip.

* For competitive sports, consuming coffee improves attention to detail, observance of your surroundings, and reduces symptoms of fatigue through caffeine's effect on the central nervous system.

* Hydration is important for endurance exercise performance. Coffee, when consumed in moderation (four to five cups of coffee or 400mg of caffeine per day), provides similar hydrating qualities to water and does not cause dehydration.

By Deni Kirkova

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