Guest Post: Coffee’s Place in the Workout Regimen…Yes, Has a Place!

Coffee drinkers in the US are averaging about 2 cups of coffee a day (~200 mg caffeine), with 10% of the population consuming more than 1000 mg of caffeine per day.

Coffee, and caffeine in general, has had a bad reputation in the past…but research shows that it can have many benefits during exercise, such as:

  •  Ability to train at a higher power output (train harder)
  •  Increased speed
  •  Ability to train for a longer period of time (more endurance)
  • Ability to resist muscle fatigue

Common coffee-alternative forms of caffeine ingestion are pre-workout formulas or caffeine pills. Many of the ingredients in the pre-workout supplements are used to increase blood flow, heart rate, and focus, which is intended to help athletes feel energized before going into a workout. Unfortunately, the claims made on the supplement label are often times just a bunch of hype:

  • There are no direct energy sources coming from the B-vitamins packed into a pre-workout formula and the excess that is being consumed is excreted from the body.
  • All of the amino acids, vitamins, and minerals in these supplements can be obtained naturally through the diet and will prove to be an inexpensive way to get the same results.
  • If you are trying to supercharge your workout, the safest and best option is always to choose natural sources first!

Another downside to excessive caffeine intake is that it can cause gastrointestinal issues, nausea, tremors, and over-stimulation that affects sleep cycles, and can cause anxiety. Therefore, some things to carefully consider for optimal performance results are: timing, form, and amount of caffeine consumed.
In addition, for student athletes, it’s important to know that caffeine is actually a banned substance by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and consuming it in great amounts (if amounts in urine exceed 15 micrograms/mL) can result in a positive drug test. Many of those pre-workout supplements contain the same amount of caffeine in 4 cups of coffee, so it’s important to be aware of how much athletes use.

Some nutrition supplements do not disclose the amount of caffeine in their product or may contain other illegal/detrimental stimulants that you are not aware of, so make sure to do you research on what you put into your body.

This is the general rule for ALL dietary supplements – there is no government regulation on supplemental facts like there are on a food product’s nutritional facts, so it is important to do research on any dietary supplements.

If you choose to drink coffee/caffeine to impact performance, be smart and use these helpful hints:

  • Consume about 1-3 mg of caffeine per pound of body weight
  • Consume caffeine 1 hour before cardiovascular endurance training
  • Caffeine can be consumed up to 20 minutes before high-intensity training
  • Find natural caffeine sources first!

Written by: Ashley Beaner, Dietetics Student at SDSU