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Benefits of Coffee for Runners


Many athletes cannot fathom the thought of a run or race without caffeine.  Fortunately, there are many benefits to your morning (and afternoon) cup of coffee if you are a runner. 

Gets Things Moving
Even though scientists aren’t exactly sure why this is the case, coffee has a way of making sure you hit the bathroom before you step out the door for your run.  This is a welcome benefit for anyone who has had to make an emergency pit-stop mid run or race!

Aids Recovery
Exciting research has shown that when caffeine is consumed in conjunction with carbohydrates after a workout it can aid in the rebuilding of glycogen stores.  Participants in this research study increased their glycogen storage post-run 66% more than those who only took in carbohydrates.  Since mega doses of caffeine were required in this study (8 mg/ kg body weight), you can now justify ordering that post-long run trenta-sized coffee!

Improved Mental Alertness
There is nothing worse than showing up to the starting line of a race with a foggy head.  However, a cup of coffee wakes up your central nervous system, thereby providing the boost you need to tackle whatever obstacles come your way.

Better State of Mind
Unless you prefer to run angry, 2 -4 cups of coffee per day have been shown to improve mood in individuals.  In fact, studies have shown that coffee drinkers are less likely to be depressed than non-coffee drinkers, and are also less likely to commit suicide.  While this benefit isn’t yet fully understood, researchers believe that coffee releases the feel-good chemical, dopamine, into the brain. 

Enhanced Fat Burning
Caffeine has been shown to increase the amount of fatty acids in a person’s blood stream, which in turn improves the body’s ability to convert fat into energy.  There are two benefits here:  improved weight loss, and increased glycogen conservation.  In a long run or race, such as a marathon, this means you will have more glycogen in the latter half to help you avoid hitting the wall. 

Decreased Diabetes Risk
A study published in European Journal of Nutrition indicates that people who drink 2 cups of coffee per day are 10 – 12% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.  Interestingly, coffee most protected people with a healthy BMI, suggesting this favorite morning ritual might have additional benefits for people who are already healthy. 

Improved Performance
Perhaps the best reason to drink coffee before a run is because of the performance aspect.  Numerous studies have shown that caffeine – no matter how it is consumed – can boost performance.  One study that involved cyclists and triathletes showed that participants who were given 350 mg of caffeine before their workout in the form of coffee or another drink outperformed those who were given decaf coffee or a placebo. 

The only downside to coffee is that some people find it to be dehydrating.  If this is the case, always make sure to drink water in addition to your morning cup of coffee.