Coffee: Keep it or Kick it?

sarah cuff Beverages, Food for Runners 2 Comments

IMG_2497I’ve long been a fan of coffee… In fact I’ve definitely had a caffeine addiction in the past. However, I ditched the stuff completely when training for my BMO marathon where I took nearly 25 minutes off my previous time and qualified for Boston.

Coffee – does it help or hinder our performance? Should we keep it or kick it?

Personally, I don’t believe the answer is a flat yes or no. It’s never that simple! However, I’ve found there’s a few things we probably want to watch for when it comes to drinking coffee.

1. Why?

First, determine why you’re drinking coffee. Is it a daily need? A have to have? If you feel like you can’t start your day or function properly without coffee, it is highly likely it’s time to give it up. However, if you drink it once or twice a week and fully enjoy the flavour and experience of coffee, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I know when I’ve reached the level of ‘addiction’ to coffee and that’s when I know I must pull back.When we rely on it daily, it feels like we’re getting an extra energy kick from coffee that benefits us. The reality is that you’d likely have a higher and steadier level of energy once you forgo the coffee altogether. So instead of relying on coffee for energy, ensure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, getting your runs in and finding positive outlets for stress. You’ll end up far more productive and clear-headed in the long run. On that note, you’ll run better too!

2. When?

When are you drinking coffee? Is it before running or after? Drinking coffee before running is actually known to be a performance enhancer – not necessarily a bad thing, although too much can upset the stomach and that cancels out any benefits! However, if you’re going straight for coffee post-run… well, not such a good thing. Coffee does not help with the rebuilding process that must take place after a run. It actually has the potential to act as a catabolic substance, breaking tissue down instead of building it up. Not what you want to be doing after a run!

Furthermore, are you drinking coffee on an empty stomach or alongside food? Drinking coffee on an empty stomach first thing in the morning is another not so great idea. You’ve been fasting for 6-8 hours which means your liver glucose is low. Coffee provides an energy boost, but you have to ask yourself where it’s coming from if there’s no glucose readily available. For the same reason you don’t want to drink coffee after a run (the catabolic effect), you don’t want to drink coffee on an empty stomach, as it will at best play havoc with blood sugar levels and at worst break down tissue in order to create glucose (aka energy).

In drinking coffee with food, it’s true that it can bind certain minerals found in the food (such as calcium or iron) and cause them to pass through your digestive tract without being absorbed. In this case, if coffee is to be had, I’d start with breakfast and then 20-30 minutes later or more reach for the coffee.

Still on the subject of timing, are you drinking coffee in the morning or after noon hour? As a stimulant, coffee is best consumed before the noon hour rolls around. Coffee has a half life of 5-6 hours (really depends on the person though), meaning that if you drank a cup of coffee at 7am, you’d experience peak concentration at 8am, then at noon there’d still be half the amount of caffeine from that coffee circulating in your bloodstream, and at 5pm one-quarter of the original amount, and by bedtime,~10pm, only one-eighth of the original amount. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this… If you were to have a cup of coffee at 5pm, you’d still have half the caffeine circulating in your bloodstream stimulating you 5-6 hours later as you are supposed to be preparing for sleep.

3. How?

Lastly, how do you drink your coffee? Do you enjoy the pure deep rich flavour of the espresso bean and drink your coffee black? I’ve nothing more to say but enjoy. However, if coffee is used as a vehicle for cream, milks, sugar, artificial sweeteners or flavourings and syrups, it’s probably being used as a stimulant and not for the pure enjoyment of the coffee, ha. I’d highly recommending kicking out any caffeinated drinks that have added sugars or sweeteners or are calorie laden.

And do you drink organic or non-organic? Coffee is a heavily sprayed crop, so choosing organic is always best. When it comes to decaffeinated coffee, I’d especially stay far away from the non-organic due to the chemicals that are used to remove the caffeine. Choose organic swiss water decaf instead.

So although I won’t out coffee altogether or forevermore, I do believe it’s a once in a while type of drink that shouldn’t be relied upon daily. As I heed my own advice I reach for dandelion tea with lemon or warm ginger tea instead (click here for the recipe). After all, ginger is on the my Top 10 Foods for Runners list – and making it into a tea is such an easy way to consume it daily!

What are your thoughts on coffee? Do you drink it or not? Do you feel it helps or hinders your running? Should we keep it or kick it?

Happy running 🙂

Sarah J Cuff, RHN

Comments 2

  1. After reading this I decided to back off the coffee intake. I’m on day four of the equivalent of one coffee, instead of three. I’m going to wake up at some point, right?

    Actually I do feel better. most evidently in the evenings, I’m more rested and have significantly lower anxiety levels. Not sure if I’m ready to give up entirely yet.

    Switching to half decaf has really helped, it lets me keep the routine, but without the caffeine.

    1. Post

      Yay Laura!! I was wondering if you were going to stick with it, and you did 🙂
      You’ll know when/if you’re ready to give it up entirely… If that point comes, I’d suggest trying 3 weeks without (or doing a 3-week ‘energize cleanse’) and then evaluate whether or not you want to keep it out or how much you want to keep in longer term!

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