As a lurker in fitness/healthy living discussions for a while now (my own lack of formal health/physiological education generally nudges me to keep my mouth shut and listen), I've noticed that the "coffee vs. no coffee" debate seems to come up every so often.
For all of the coffee fanatics out there who can't imagine starting the day and/or their workout without a cup, there are some equally passionate folks out there adamantly saying "no way." To this end, I'm not talking about people who don't like drinking coffee, or for whatever reason, can't. While I can't personally wrap my mind around not enjoying coffee in all its forms (brewed, iced, espresso, etc.), I know there are some who just can't stomach the taste or the effects. I'm referring to those who are purposefully refraining from java consumption.
A recent New York Times article seems to have gotten the debate going online again, linking moderate coffee drinking — the equivalent of three or four 5-ounce cups of coffee a day or a single venti-size Starbucks — with specific health advantages: a reduction in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, basal cell carcinoma (the most common skin cancer), prostate cancer, oral cancer and breast cancer recurrence. While this particular article wasn't specific to athletes, the NYT has previously cited sources who link coffee consumption with enhanced athletic performance. So it appears -- at least in recent years -- that the Old Gray Lady has come down squarely on the pro-coffee side of the debate.
A lot of athletes ask -- is there something magical about coffee? Or is it simply the caffeine content? Sports dietitian Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D's weighs in in her article The Facts About Caffeine and Athletic Performance, where she gives a breakdown of how much caffeine is in some pretty common products (ed. note: IMO, some products are a bit weird for this grouping for active.com readers, e.g,. Dexatrim? Are some of y'all really taking that stuff?)
- Gu, Vanilla, 1 oz: 20 mg
- Diet Coke, 12 oz: 30 mg
- Espresso, 1 oz shot: 40 mg
- Jolt gum, 1 piece: 40 mg
- Pepsi, 12 oz can: 45 mg
- Dexatrim diet pill: 52 mg
- Excedrin, 1 tab: 5 mg
- Red Bull, 8 oz can: 80 mg
- Starbucks, 16 oz: 200 mg
- NoDoz max, 1 tab: 200 mg
[c]affeine is rapidly absorbed by the body, and reaches its highest concentration about an hour after it is consumed; it can maintain that peak for several hours. During that time, yes, it often contributes to greater urine output for several hours, but that phenomenon is followed by a decrease in urine output. ... A natural concern for even regular caffeine users is avoiding increases in the urge to urinate during the early stages of a race. Fortunately, since there's an increase in catecholamines and less blood flow to the kidneys, the early diuretic effect of caffeine is often lacking during exercise.
Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running, who has quickly become my go-to resource on the web (he's the one that designed my new PR half marathon plan starting June 24 -- I'm literally counting down the days now and have been religiously doing his pre/post run regimens to get ready for it) is also in favor of caffeine consumption; specifically coffee. In his post What Are the Health Benefits of Caffeine? Why You Should Start Drinking Coffee to Run Faster, Jason argues that coffee offers performance enhancement and other benefits, citing to an number of well-regard sources and providing his own anecdotal testimony.
Personally, I'm trying to limit my all-day consumption; people in my industry tend to drink it all day long. While I honestly like coffee, I really enjoy the "hot beverage" experience. So lately, I've been drinking coffee in the morning, but then switching to green or herbal tea later on. My theory is that I will be able to feel the enhanced performance effects of coffee/caffeine for racing in a more prominent way if I haven't dulled my senses all week long nursing on a cup of joe. I'll keep you posted.
What are your thoughts? Gotta have your coffee? No way? Some other caffeine source?