All about coffee and Caffeine

Coffee…It’s my drug of choice! And there is a growing body of evidence that it may be beneficial for our health. It does more than just help us kick start our day. Compared to nondrinkers, coffee drinkers are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and dementia. A new study showed that drinking coffee may be associated with a lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis, good news for people living in the Northwest, who are at higher risk of developing that disease.

For those of us who are more short term thinkers, coffee, more specifically the caffeine it contains, has some immediate benefits for those looking to improve their athletic performance. Specifically, using caffeine pre-workout:

-          Reduces the sensation of effort (Ivy, J.L. et al. Med. Sci. Sports 11: 6-11.1979), i.e. your workout seems easier or you can push yourself harder than usual

-          Helps maintain high central nervous system drive by blocking adenosine receptors and increases muscle fiber recruitment (Spriet, L.L. et al. Am. J. physiol. 262: E891-E898, 1992.)

-          Increases fat oxidation and spares muscle glycogen (Spriet, L.L. et al. Am. J. physiol. 262: E891-E898, 1992.), which will increase the time you are able to exercise before fatigue sets in

Contrary to popular belief, these benefits can be seen in both regular and non-regular caffeine users (Lassiter et al. Journal of Caffeine Research 2:167-175, 2012). The optimal dose of caffeine needed to improve athletic performance is 3-4 mg of caffeine per kg of body weight (Graham, T.E. and L.L. Spriet J. Appl Physiol. 78:867-874,1995.) For a 150 pound person this equates to about 200 mg of caffeine, or the amount found in one 8 oz cup of brewed coffee.

Here’s a yummy pre-workout smoothie recipe to try. The addition of the instant coffee adds about 135 mg of caffeine, so if you are using this smoothie before a race or other athletic event you are looking to perform well on you can adjust the dose up or down accordingly.

Pre-workout Mocha Smoothie

  •        1 frozen banana

  •        2 cups spinach

  •        1 packet instant coffee

  •        2 scoops chocolate protein powder

  •        ½ cup coconut water

  •         Optional ½ cup ice cubes

Put all ingredients into a blender cup and blend well.

(307 calories, 53 g carbohydrate, 4 grams fat, 24 grams protein, 8 grams fiber)

For others ways to improve athletic performance consult with a registered dietitian.

Just keep in mind that while your cup of coffee may be imparting more health benefits than just a quick jolt of energy, some of those fancy coffee drinks at the coffeehouse are calorie bombs (590 calories for the new s’mores Frappuccino anyone?) For a delicious and healthy iced coffee try something like this.