Is Coffee Bad for Athletes?

By Dan Garner
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When I start working with new clients, there's usually a few questions that almost everybody asks. First question is normally about alcohol, and quickly following suit is the consumption of coffee because they "heard" that it was bad for you. Let's clear some of that up.

Right out of the gates, I can tell you that there have been both negative studies and positive studies on the consumption of coffee. This happens in every area of study, you can pretty much find a single study to demonstrate any point you want to make. Where the real knowledge and application comes from is where does the whole body of evidence lean towards and what is the overall "research consensus" on the topic.

20 years of coffee research heavily favors and supports coffee consumption and the potential health-promoting effects of the beverage.

Here's a short list of what your daily cup of Joe does for your performance:

  1. Caffeine improves speed and strength by accelerating the speed and transmission of electrical signalling from the brain to the muscles
  2. Caffeine improves endurance by lowering perceived effort
  3. Coffee increases glucocorticoid secretion from the adrenal glands, which is a great training aid especially when in a dieting state
  4. Caffeine prevents exercise induced intra-muscular decreases in potassium; keeping the cells more hydrated and performing better
  5. Caffeine upregualtes free-fatty acid use during exercise as an energy substrate, delaying the depletion of glycogen and the onset of gluconeogenesis

How does coffee affect your health?

  1. Harvard research demonstrates coffee drinkers are 20% less likely to suffer from depression (long shot, sure, but figured it was worth a mention)
  2. Long term research correlates coffee drinkers to suffer from less disease risk than their non-coffee drinking counter parts. Decreased risk factors included were heart disease, diabetes, dementia, certain types of cancer, liver disease, Parkinson's disease, and depression
  3. A 2013 study out of the New England Journal of Medicine found that within a population of more than 400K people, regular coffee consumers were 10% less likely to die during the 13-year observation period
  4. Coffee contains anti-oxidants and is arguably the #1 anti-oxidant source in the average persons diet
  5. Long term data on Type ll diabetics has demonstrated that habitual coffee consumption improves blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity

There you have it, 5 from an exercise perspective and 5 from a health and longevity perspective. The data is out there and when it comes to where the body of evidence is leaning, you've got a green light for that beloved morning coffee.

This goes without saying, but more is not better. Don't get silly with this (this is actually when things can start going downhill for your health), 1-2 normal cups daily is where you should typically be at if drinking coffee is something you enjoy doing.

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dan garner

Dan Garner is the owner and founder of Team Garner and is the head strength coach and nutrition specialist for Specializing and delivering consistent world class results in physique transformation and athletic performance, Dan has worked with many athletes diet from the youth leagues right up to the NHL, NFL, MLB and UFC. He is an international lecturer on sports nutrition and has been featured in several major media outlets. In addition to his coaching services, he has created many online products available for purchase and is a bestselling author on Amazon.


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