Coffee keeps the world running. We may joke about the importance of coffee getting us through the morning, but for many, it has become almost impossible to function without it.
With the Olympics in Rio recently wrapping up some of the greatest sporting accomplishments, once again, we are reminded just how helpful caffeine can be to performance at the top level. Caffeine has some incredible properties that have been studied throughout the years by researchers. We list below 10 benefits of caffeine and the scientific studies behind why you should integrate it into your current routine for better exercise, healthier body, and life!
Reduced recovery time
Researchers at the University of Georgia1 found that the participants who took a moderate dose of caffeine before completing strenuous workouts that cause muscle soreness, had less soreness than those who were given a placebo.
In 2011, a study2 at Liverpool John Moores University made participants deplete their muscle glycogen through an interval workout. They were then given a four hour recovery period before a second high intensity workout. During the recovery time, the participants were either given a highly caffeinated sports drink or a placebo sports drink with sugar. The researchers found that those who had consumed caffeinated sports beverages, performed better in the second interval workout, lasting 50% longer than those given the placebo sugar only sports drink.
Improved mental alertness
It has been said that running is 90% mental and that the way you combat the negative thoughts and push through, will determine how well you perform that day. Researchers found that caffeine enhances exercise performance3 to failure and positively enhances psychophysiological factors related to exertion.
If caffeine helps to boost mood during a race, and has a positive effect on our desire to exercise hard, then we are better able to work towards and hopefully achieve our workout goals.
Helps your body burn fat as a source of fuel
With the abundance of junk food available to us, most of us find it very difficult to maintain a healthy diet and weight. Especially when you are flooded with advertisements daily and there are endless social opportunities available to us.
What if we could use our fat stores for fuel, rather than using carbohydrates?
A study5 found that fat oxidation (burning fat for fuel) was significantly higher in the participants who consumed caffeinated coffee compared to those who consumed decaf coffee.
This is because caffeine stimulates your central nervous system, speeding up your metabolism, so your body is able to use fat for fuel. Your body can then save the glycogen for the later stages of a race. If you have ever bonked in a marathon due to running low on fuel, you will know how important that is!
Lower risk of type II diabetes and liver cancer
Over 29 million people in the US alone have diabetes, and as many as 1 in 4 have not been diagnosed.
Those that exercise often can be guilty of falling into the trap of thinking that they are exempt and are able to get away with eating junk food. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The foods that we eat not only help us feel good in our athletic ventures, but will keep other health related illnesses at bay.
Outside of healthy dieting and exercising, there is another additional way you can lower your risk of diabetes. You guessed it; caffeine.
Further review6 on this found an inverse log-linear relationship between coffee consumption and subsequent risk of diabetes. It even concluded that every additional cup of coffee consumed in a day, resulted in a 7% reduction in the excess risk of diabetes!
Faster reaction time and improved coordination
If you are training for a marathon, a faster reaction time may not help you all that much. At some point, most runners will be training for a 5k or shorter, in which case, speed workouts will come into play.
Using explosive hill sprints and drills to enhance your neuromuscular coordination will go a long way for the shorter races.
A literature review8 concluded that the consumption of moderate amounts of caffeine enhances cognitive functioning capabilities and neuromuscular coordination. If your neuromuscular coordination improves, your leg muscles can fire faster and with more force.
Which means you can run faster with less effort!
Run a Faster 5k
All these benefits are great confidence boosters for those of us coffee lovers. Another great thing about caffeine is that a study9 in 2007 showed that it actually can!
The researchers compared runners ingesting caffeine prior to a 5k time trial to a placebo group. The caffeine trial resulted in 1.1% and 1.0% faster times in well-trained and recreational runners.
For a 25 minute 5k runner, this would result in about a 25 second decrease and personal record in your next race.
Great source of antioxidants
Overall, exercising is great for our body as it helps keep our heart healthy and many other health related illnesses at bay.
Even though certain exercises can create unwanted inflammation in your body, fresh brewed coffee is abundant in antioxidants which work against inflammation. A paper published in The Journal of Nutrition10 found coffee contained more antioxidants than any other various food groups.
The National Institute of Health even found that coffee drinkers overall had a 10% lower risk of death than non-coffee drinkers... Not feeling so guilty about that morning cup o’joe any more, right?
Caffeine, coffee, and tea had been given a bad rap in the past, but after looking at all the healthy benefits caffeine can provide, they far outweigh the costs. In moderation of course!
1. Caffeine attenuates delayed-onset muscle pain and force loss following eccentric exercise. The Journal of Pain (11 December 2006) | DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2006.08.006
2. The effect of adding caffeine to postexercise carbohydrate feeding on subsequent high-intensity interval-running capacity compared with carbohydrate alone. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (10 August 2011) | DOI: 21832305
3. The acute effect of a caffeine-containing energy drink on mood state, readiness to invest effort, and resistance exercise to failure. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (26 October 2012) | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318241e124
4. Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans.Nature Neuroscience (30 October 2013) | DOI: 10.1038/nn.3623
5. Effects of caffeine ingestion on metabolism and exercise performance. Medicine and Science in Sports (1978) | DOI: 10(3):155-158
6. Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee, and Tea Consumption in Relation to Incident Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. JAMA - Internal Medicine (2009) | DOI: 10.1001/archinternmed.2009.439
7. Coffee Reduces Risk for Hepatocellular Carcinoma: An Updated Meta-analysis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (November 2013) | DOI: 10.1016/j.cgh.2013.04.039 (Open Access)
8. Caffeine - Not just a stimulant. Nutrition Journal (October 2010) | DOI: 10.1016/j.nut.2010.08.004
9. Caffeine has a small effect on 5-km running performance of well-trained and recreational runners. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (11 April 2008) | DOI: 10.1016/j.jsams.2006.12.118
10. Intakes of Antioxidants in Coffee, Wine, and Vegetables Are Correlated with Plasma Carotenoids in Humans. The Journal of Nutrition (1 March 2004) | DOI: 134/3/562-567