Runner’s High: How Coffee Affects Running Performance


I’m about eight sips into my second cup of joe, and the world is beginning to look like a good place again. Am I addicted? Debatable. I like to say that the caffeine is not what I really crave, but rather the hot mug against my eternally cold hands, the warm, perfectly scented steam wafting up into my face, and the companionship that this dark liquid provides for my 6:00 a.m. reading sessions.

But whether or not I am addicted is not the main issue here. As runners, we should be asking ourselves what effects, good and bad, drinking coffee has on our bodies in relation to how it affects our performance in the sport. How do we best go about enjoying this glorious gift to mankind as we also strive to stay healthy, reach our goals and improve upon our performance? Here are four things that you as a runner should know about the liquid gold in your mug.

1. Coffee may boost performance

Caffeine has been examined in hundreds of studies conducted in hopes to determine its effect upon athletic performance. Heightened reaction times, improved cognitive abilities, boosted endurance and increased sprint speeds have all been recorded results of these studies. However, the relationship between caffeine’s actual physical influence and the effect of human mental perception on performance is still a bit murky, preventing theories from being inarguably conclusive. So, while we can’t tell you that coffee will certainly improve your running game, there is a reasonable chance that it may (either mentally or physically) provide a positive boost.On another note, coffee is not solely about caffeine. A growing body of research is developing in regard to an alternative bonus; phytochemicals found in coffee beans have been found to lower blood pressure and work against dementia.

Coffee gets things moving

While coffee can quicken your physical and cognitive speed, don’t forget that it gets other things moving as well. Coffee is a known diuretic, which is a factor to consider if you’re drinking your morning mug before a long run. The effect will differ for each person, and in relation to how much you drink. My advice? If you’ve never had coffee prior to a run, test out the habit on a route with a convenient pit stop. If you’re a regular coffee drinker and you have a race coming up, stick to your normal routine in order to prevent an unexpected detour.

Only extreme amounts dehydratew-Giant-Coffee-Cup75917

As with all diuretics, consuming an exorbitant amount of coffee may lead to dehydration if you’re not careful. What is an exorbitant amount, you may ask? Most studies show that one can consume up to 5 cups (550 mg) of coffee before hydration levels are affected. So if you’ve been under the impression that drinking a cup of coffee will seriously damage your hydration levels, think again, just make sure to maintain appropriate levels of water consumption in addition to coffee. Enjoying coffee is not an excuse to abandon proper hydration habits.

Coffee can aid in recovery

If you run, you know that your body’s glycogen stores need to be replenished post-workout. Good news – caffeine can help! A study done on athletes showed that a test group that drank caffeinated recovery formula retained significantly more glycogen than the group that did not consume caffeine. While it appears as though a large amount of caffeine must be consumed for this effect to be substantial, having a few cups after your workout (properly balanced with water) could be beneficial.

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