If you consider your coffee habit to be a bad one, think again. Research shows that caffeine can actually improve your running performance and help boost an active lifestyle.
Double Olympic gold medallist and winner of the 2014 Bupa Great North Run, Mo Farah, once gave this training tip about drinking coffee: “Have a coffee before you run. Some people say you shouldn’t, but I love my coffee. Always have a cup before a race.”
Many people drink an espresso or a mug of the office instant in the morning, but new studies have discovered that when drank at the right time and in the right quantities, caffeine can improve your ability to exercise longer and harder. It does this by reducing the chemical messages to the brain that would usually induce fatigue, instead stimulates fat oxidation and energy production. Caffeine has been discovered to slow the use of muscle glycogen – the carbohydrate used by the body for energy, and it also sharpens mental focus to help keeping training effective and productive.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology took a look at the effects of consuming caffeine supplements 90 minutes before workout, and discovered that combining caffeine with exercise created a greater energy deficit and also resulted in the physical activity (in this case, cycling for one hour) being perceived as less difficult and more enjoyable. When it comes to longer duration events, an extra dose of caffeine in the last two hours can help with fatigue.
THE CAFFEINE KICK
Caffeine is quickly absorbed and usually appears at peak levels in the bloodstream about 45-60 minutes after drinking it. The optimum amount of caffeine to drink before exercise is considered to be 3-4mg per kilogram of bodyweight. With an average mug of instant coffee containing around 100mg of caffeine (Food Standards Agency), a 10-stone (64kg) runner would need to drink about two mugs before setting off. For maximum benefits, make it a black coffee and skip the milk/sugar/ sweetener.
But if coffee is not your thing, there is a number of caffeine-containing alternatives, including products made especially for runners.