Some studies have shown that drinking coffee before exercise can enhance exercise performance, particularly for endurance events such as longer distance running. Not all studies have shown a benefit though. A recent, well publicized study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that even moderate amounts of caffeine, the equivalent of two cups of coffee, can impair athletic performance. It seems that the caffeine in coffee alters the amount of blood flow that reaches the heart during an exercise session. Normally, blood flow to the heart increases with exercise, but when caffeine tablets were given to athletes, this increase in blood flow was reduced, meaning less oxygen and nutrients were reaching the heart muscle.
Despite this, many people still believe that drinking coffee before exercise helps them to exercise longer and harder. Some people who drink coffee before exercise feel more focused due to the effects of caffeine; and there’s some evidence that caffeine can reduce fatigue allowing a person to exercise longer. The effects of caffeine on sports performance may vary depending upon the individual and the amount of caffeine consumed, making it difficult to generalize. Nevertheless, it would be wise to avoid drinking coffee before exercise particularly if you have hypertension or are at an increased risk of heart disease.
A final disadvantage of drinking coffee before exercise is its mild diuretic effect. Although it may not have an enormous impact on hydration, it can increase urine flow which may be an inconvenience if you’re on a long distance run with no access to a bathroom.
The bottom line? It’s best not to drink coffee before exercise. Stick with water, sugar-free fruit juice or caffeine-free sports drinks for longer exercise sessions. Take time out after exercise to kick back and enjoy your favorite coffee.
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