General Health & Wellness

Step Aside Fruit Juice, This is a Job for Coffee!

A friend of mine asked me if I was aware that I had OCD right in the middle of Starbucks! Seriously?  I was working on a witty comeback when he enlightened me that in his world OCD means “Obsessive Coffee Disorder”.  Hmmm… now I may have to cop to that one.  From his perspective the only time we bump into one another is at the gym (yes, I’m having a coffee) or at the coffee shop.

So as I sipped on my first “tall bold” for the day, I thought a little research into  the benefits of daily coffee consumption would be great for all the other OCD’s out there.

I began my research at the American College of Sports Medicine’s website where I found the official Current Comment written by Lawrence L. Spriet, PhD.,FACSM (Chair) and Terry E. Graham, PhD., FACSM. The doctors open by stating that caffeine may be the most widely used stimulant in the world.  In the US the average consumption is about 2 cups of coffee per day (200mg of caffeine) although as much as 10% of the population ingests 1000 mg per day.  For the record, I’m not up to 1000 mg per day yet.  Although caffeine has no nutrtional value is is often referred to as a nutritional ergogenic aid.  When ingested, coffee is quickly absorbed from the stomach and peaks in the blood in 1 to 2 hours.

Research findings have varied over the past four decades but recent laboratory findings with elite athletes have proven that 3-9 mg of ingested caffeine per kilogram(KG) of body weight an hour before exercise did in fact increase endurance in running and cycling performance. This would be the equivalent of 1-3 mugs or 2 to 6 regular size cups of drip-perculated coffee.  The findings were based on short term exercise of 5 minutes or less.  It is unknown if these findings would apply in a race situation or with untrained individuals.  It is also unclear as to why these endurance improvements occur, however it does appear that alterations in muscle metabolism alone don’t fully explain the ergogenic effect of caffeine during endurance exercise.  More research into sprinting events (exercise that lasts from a few seconds up to 90 seconds) is being considered.

Caffeine is a “controlled or restricted substance” as defined by the International Olympic Committee. Yikes!  That line prompted me to put my cup of joe down for a second and read the entire article.

Apparently athletes are allowed up to 12 ug(0.012mg) caffeine per milliliter of urine before it’s considered illegal. A baseline example would be if a 154 lb individual drank about 3-4 mugs or 5-6 regular cups of coffee an hour before exercise, exercised for 60-90 minutes and then gave a urine sample they would only approach the 12 ug of urine limit.  The odds that one would reach the illegal limit by ingestion alone is improbable.  Someone testing positive more than likely deliberately supplemented with caffeine pills in an effort to enhance their performance.

There has been a fair amount of discussion among the medical community, including ACSM, about advising competitive athletes especially at the Olympic or professional level to consider abstaining from caffeine. Eventually it could be banned 48-72 hours before competition.

Okay. Let’s get back to the real world of exercise enthusiasts like you who are reading this. Publications like Clean Eating and Men’s Health have weighed in on caffeine and the research is nothing short of amazing.

Clean Eating posted a piece by Dr. Jonny Bowden pointing out the antioxidant benefits of our daily coffee. That’s not to say we should be drinking all of our vitamins.  However, Dr. Bowden mentioned a study from the journal Circulation that concluded coffee drinkers who drink 1-5 cups a day have far less heart disease, diabetes and neurological disorders.  Woo hoo!  The data on coffee continues to impress!

In addition to the above health benefits and the obvious increased energy it provides, studies show that it lowers risk of Parkinson’s, Alzhemier’s, liver and colorectal cancer.  New research recently published in the Journal of Natural Products reports that drinking 3-4 cups of coffee, whether regular or decaf, can help prevent type 2 diabetes.  Drink up but don’t neglect the importance of a healthy diet and consistent exercise.  Oh, right the exercising piece- yes, coffee helps you burn fat! One’s metabolic rate can be boosted by 3-11%.

Christa Sgobba published an article for Men’s Health last year stating 11 reasons to have a cup of coffee RIGHT NOW!  I like her thinking.  The eleven benefits are  listed below and align with many of the above mentioned benefits:

  1. You’ll slash your diabetes risk (we just discussed).
  2. You’ll drive like a PRO. A Netherlands study showed that people who consumed a cup of caffeinated coffee in the middle of a 4-hour long drive, swerved less, maintened speed better and were more responsible drivers than their non-caffeinated counter parts.
  3. You’ll avoid Kidney stones, a Harvard study showed that people who drank one or more servings of coffee/day were 26% less likely to develop kidney stones than those who drank coffee once a week.
  4. You’ll remember more stuff. People who consumed slightly more than an 8 oz. Starbucks blonde roast, after viewing certain images were better able to recall them 24 hours later.
  5. You’ll reduce your risk of liver cancer (also noted above).
  6. You’ll workout harder! Lower levels of exertion and higher levels of alertness were experienced by men who drank a cup of coffee an hour before a cycling workout.
  7. You’ll thwart melanoma. The NCI found that people who drank 4 or more cups of coffee/day were 20% less likely to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
  8. You’ll boost your mood! A Finnish study found that BIG coffee drinkers (27 ounces or more/day) were 77% less depressed than non coffee drinkers.
  9. You’ll ward off Multiple Sclerosis. The American Academy of Neurolgy found coffee drinkers 33% less likely to get the disease.
  10. You’ll save your chompers. Although java may dull your pearly whites it seems the antioxidant effects may ward off bone loss, the hallmark of periodontal disease.
  11. You’ll protect your brain and your heart! Coffee drinkers are 20% less likely to suffer a stroke according to a recent study in Japan and having at least one cup a day reduced the risk of heart disease by 16%.

So for the record, I may very well be suffering from OCD -Obsessive Coffee Disorder- but it certainly seems like a positive obsession to have. See you at the coffee shop!


Clean Eating article by Dr. Jonny Bowden available here. Your daily coffee may ward off Diabetes, click here.  ACSM Current Comment, click hereMen’s Health Benefits of coffee May 14, 2015.

You Might Also Like