We LOVE a good cup of coffee!
Many athletes (professional and recreational) use coffee as a legal PED but (how) does it really work? Here’s a little insight on the subject.
The active substance in coffee is caffeine and most of the effects of coffee can be largely attributed hereto. Caffeine acts by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system aka the “fight-or-flight” response. Caffeine augments the heart rate and the heart’s force of contraction, meaning that more blood is pumped out. This is also what happens when you start exercising, and the function is to accommodate the elevated need for oxygen. Furthermore, consuming caffeine makes you feel more alert and focused through actions on the brain. When the body is in the “fight or flight mode”, sensations of pain and fatigue are more likely to be ignored.
These combined effects, originally ‘designed’ to increase survival chances, can be very beneficial when you need to perform at your max.
On the flip side, caffeine will stimulate the gastrointestinal system and cause food to move quicker ‘through’. We probably all know the effect of that first coffee in the morning – no need to go in to details. However, when in a competition setting, you don’t want to be running to and from the toilet. Taken into consideration that most people already get excited at the prospect of having to perform, coffee can make a nervous stomach even more nervous. There’s also been some findings suggesting that caffeine can work as a diuretic (drive water out of the body), but this seems debatable and shouldn’t pose a big threat assuming that you drink enough water.
On top of this, as with many other stimulating substances, tolerance will eventually develop. This means that you’ll need more of the stimulant to get the same effect. Which is both expensive and inconvenient 🙂
All in all, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a good cup of coffee as part of your pre-workout ritual. It might also add on top of your natural ‘high’ and make you more ready for working out. However, due to the factors mentioned above, we advice you to limit you intake (and we’ll try to do the same 🙂 ).
Below are some nice resources on the subject,
Enjoy! Sarah & Ditte