How Caffeine Affects Your Health & Fitness

Coffee drinkers are a fast-growing section across the globe with numbers skyrocketing year after year. According to a study conducted by the NCA, about 64% of Americans drink coffee on a daily basis. While most people sip on their morning cup of coffee for a jump start to their day, there seems to be a host of other health benefits related to caffeine that is just beginning to be uncovered. We’ve gathered the leading research related to caffeine and your health and fitness to get to the bottom of the debate: coffee, good or bad for you?

Benefits of Caffeine for Your Health 

Coffee has its devoted followers and also its loathers, so what does science have to say about it? Does a caffeine boost in the morning do anything but make your commute a little less gloomy or is coffee a health superfood? Below are a few of the health benefits backed by research that can be reaped just by drinking coffee.

drinking coffee daily and health impact
  1. May Lower Alzheimer Risk: Recent studies have shown considerable evidence that coffee may help protect you against Alzheimer’s disease. 
  2. Coffee Might Be Heart Healthy: According to a Korean study, coffee drinkers are less likely to show the beginning signs of heart disease. More recently, a Brazilian study suggests that coffee drinkers develop less calcification in their coronary arteries.
  3. Caffeine May Reduce Risk of Certain Cancers: A University of Southern California study explains that moderate consumption of coffee can reduce the odds of developing colorectal cancer by 26%.
  4. Black Coffee is Related to a Health Mouth: Another Brazilian study suggests that black coffee will help fight cavities. Black coffee kills bacteria on your teeth which leads to tooth decay.
  5. Caffeine Can Sharpen Mental Clarity: This one might seem obvious, but this long-held assumption about caffeine was recently put to the scientific test. A recent Australian study in which truck drivers who typically consumed caffeine were far less likely than other drivers to be involved in traffic accidents.

Benefits of Caffeine for Your Fitness

Coffee can actually be super beneficial when it comes to enhancing your workout. In fact, it’s been found that about 75 percent of Olympic athletes consume caffeine in some form before their workout. So what does science have to say about caffeine and athletic performance? Well, the research is still relatively new, but as more and more researchers put caffeine to the test it seems that coffee just might be the super fuel to your next workout. 

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  1. Reduced Muscle Soreness: University of Georgia researchers found that taking caffeine (the equivalent of about two cups of coffee) reduced muscle soreness in women after a strenuous workout. Another study published in the Journal of Pain found that up to two cups of coffee can reduce post-workout pain by 48%. Not too shabby for a simple cup of joe.
  2. Ups Mental Stamina: A report in Sports Medicine has called caffeine a “powerful ergogenic aid” – it’s a top enhancer of physical performance right up there with sports supplements. The study found that drinking coffee before your workout may allow you to train harder for longer. If that’s not in your game plan, specifically, it may mean that it makes your workout feel more enjoyable (and less grueling).
  3. May Increases Physical Endurance: A study published in the British Journal of Sports Science found that participants who drank coffee before running 1,500 meters completed their run 4.2 seconds faster on average than the control group who didn’t consume the java. Ready for your next 1,500 meters? Get out your coffee mug.
  4. Coffee Might Increase Fat Burn: Caffeine has a thermogenic, AKA heat-causing, affect on your metabolism. What it comes down to is that caffeine helps the release of short-chain fatty acids into our bloodstream which allows you to be able to convert fat to usable energy. When this happens, you are conserving glycogen, which your body also uses for energy when you work out.
Research into the caffeine's impact on the fitness performance

When To Drink Coffee To Benefit Your Workout

It’s probably best to avoid drinking coffee immediately before your workout. This could lead to some digestive issues mid-workout and no one wants that. The preferred time between consumption and action is about 75 minutes. This window period was proven to have performance benefits without causing any issues during the workout.

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Moderate daily doses of caffeine — between 200 and 300 milligrams, or two to four drinks — are typically considered safe. But how much caffeine you’re getting depends on what you’re drinking. Just one 16-ounce Starbucks Grande can pack as much as 400 milligrams of caffeine. Unless it’s decaffeinated, even that 6-ounce cup of green tea could be serving up 40 milligrams.

It’s all worth noting that caffeine might affect your sleeping schedule if you drink too much, which we’ll touch more on later. But some people simply metabolize coffee more quickly than others so be aware: if you’re very sensitive to coffee, it will probably affect your sleep so don’t drink it after the morning.

Dangers of Coffee and Caffeine On Your Health

Well, you can’t expect coffee to be made of pure magic, can you? Although coffee may agree very well with some, it is important to remember that caffeine is still a pretty potent stimulant that might not suit everybody’s system. Below are a few things to watch out for when drinking coffee or digesting caffeine. 

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  1. Caffeine Can Contribute to Acid Reflux: However, studies demonstrate that coffee can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, a valve that keeps stomach acid out of the esophagus. For instance, in a trial of healthy participants, drinking coffee increased measurements of lower esophageal sphincter pressure.
  2. Coffee May Make Harder To Sleep: Studies have shown that caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours in healthy people. However, it can actually take 1.5-9.5 hours to actually eliminate half of the caffeine from your system. What does this mean for you? If you drink a cup of coffee at 9 am, you’re left with half of that caffeine still in your system by 9 pm. It doesn’t give your sleep routine any favors to have a stimulant still roaming around your body. 
  3. IBS May Worsen with Caffeine: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that is on the rise, and it has an estimated prevalence rate of 10-20% in Western countries. People with IBS often suffer adverse side effects after consuming certain foods or drinks. Unfortunately, coffee is one of these, and it can often make IBS worse.

Coffee, Caffeine, and Your Overall Health

With all the new studies and research being done on caffeine and it’s relationship to our health and fitness, the facts look promising. While coffee might not be the be-all and end-all answer to your fitness wishes, it has proven to at least facilitate improved athletic performance. But like anything it’s a good idea to keep your health and fitness levels in mind, and if it doesn’t agree with you considering cutting it out of your diet.

What have your experiences been like with coffee and working out? Any improvements or drawbacks? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Lesley George

Lesley is a content writer and community manager at Shape.
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