Coffee and Running: Is Coffee Good For You?

Feb 01

Coffee and Running: Is Coffee Good For You?
My roommate, who has been living in London for the past six months was home over the holidays and made the comments, after viewing the new kitchen counter arrangement, he asked “If we were opening a coffee bar?”  As you can see I’m a bit of a coffee nut and have recently been into not only trying different types of coffee but also the various processes in which coffee is brewed.  I can now brew a cup of coffee in four different methods from the comfort of my kitchen.
For me there is nothing better than a great cup of coffee and I love it for its aroma, its taste  the way it goes so well with certain foods and of course its great caffeinated benefits.  However, even if coffee did not have its magical caffeinated properties I’d still drink it and love it.  Though it may look like I’m a bit of a coffee snob, and don’t get me wrong there is a big difference between a great cup of coffee and the instant Folgers, but I’ will gladly drink either of them.
There has always been some debate around coffee and more specifically caffeine.  Should I drink it?  Is it bad for me?  Can it help me Run?  Coffee originated from Ethiopia and is a roasted seed of the coffee plant that grows in what is know as the “bean belt” the tropical area in which all coffee is grown.  The coffee berry is dried and the seed or coffee bean is extracted and roasted in a number of ways to get different flavors and styles of coffee.  Mind you I’m not a coffee expert so please let me know what you think and if there are any inconsistent info that I’m sharing.  Coffee is packed with antioxidants, which for many regular coffee drinkers is a major source of the antioxidants in their diet.  There are also some minerals and sodium but other than that there is not a lot to coffee, except the caffeine, Coffee Nutritional Facts.  The average cup or filtered coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine which is quite a bit especially compared to some of the other energy drinks out there.


Being that coffee doesn’t have a whole lot too it and the main contributing component being caffeine the question really becomes is caffeine good for you or not and what effect will it have on my running?  I certainly have a strong bias towards coffee and I don’t plan on giving it up anytime soon but I still want to try and determine the positive or negative effects that coffee can or could have on my performance.  Now I know what some of you are thinking, “why not just drink decaf coffee and not have to mess around with caffeine issue.”  Well  my friends most decafs are actually worse off for you, because often in order to create a decaf coffee bean it is bleached of its caffeine and flavor and then simply added back in later.  This process robs the coffee of many of its positive qualities and often is a great sacrifice to the coffee flavor gods.  Note there are some naturally decaffeinated coffees out there.

Is caffeine good for you and how will it effect my performance?  I have been using caffeine a lot this past year when training and running ultras, it can be a great boast for you especially during the middle of the night when you’ve been running for 10, 15, or more hours already.  Many gels and sports drinks have caffeine in them and a lot of runner and endurance athletes us caffeine in their training and racing in various forms.  I personally feel that caffeine is a great benefit for me when training and racing as long as it is used in moderation.  The chart below outlines some of the major benefits to caffeine both from a physical and mental aspect.
As you can see there are many benefits to caffeine consumption, again MODERATION being the key.  I know of several people that will get headaches if they do not have coffee or caffeine in the morning, this would be a little bit too much caffeine consumption.  As far as I can tell there is not a specific amount of coffee or caffeine that would be considered moderate, but most studies and articles that I’ve read suggest that 4-6 8oz. cups a day, but everyone acts differently to caffeine.  I normally have about three to four 10oz-12oz  cups of coffee a day, which is a fair amount of coffee and caffeine but I have not had any issues when I don’t have it and often find that it helps when I have some coffee or caffeine prior to a workout.  I would be careful at drinking coffee too late in the evening and even though I’m a regular coffee drinker if I have a cup later int he evening I will usually have a tough time falling asleep.
I don’t want to act like the authority on coffee, caffeine or runner here but it is something that I’ve read a fair amount about and find that it can have a lot of benefit to you training and performance and may be worth experimenting with, especially if you are doing longer endurance events like ultras.  Here are some of the resources that I’ve referenced and read about coffee, caffeine and running.
What’s your opinion on coffee and running, good combo or no?
How Coffee Can Galvanize Your Workout:

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