Perk Up! The scoop on coffee.

Three good reasons to “Perk Up!”

I didn’t become a regular coffee drinker until my 20’s. I was working in film production at the time and could not figure out how people on the crew could even stand erect much at 5AM. I could barely handle the drive to the set, much less hold a coherent conversation and function. I remember it being pitch black outside and someone said to me, “why not have some coffee?” I said, “OK” and poured myself a cup. Within minutes, it was as if I was having a divine experience. I suddenly felt ready to conquer the day. I looked at my little Styrofoam cup with the brown magic inside and said, “where have you been all my life?”

Caffeine has been researched so much that it actually may be more confusing than clarifying. There are enough studies for any lawyer to make a case either in it’s defense or it’s demise.

I’m a staunch believer in its many benefits, and as more and more research comes out, I feel even more validated. However, I don’t deny there are many caveats and for some, the cons can easily out weigh pros.

First, let’s discuss my number one reason for loving those lattes, and why so many other fitness nuts and athletes are in my corner. There are several studies showing that caffeine enhances physical performance and endurance if it isn’t overused. Caffeine improves athletic performance, increases energy and delays fatigue. Two recent studies showed that caffeine taken one hour before exercise had a large effect on reducing muscle pain during exercise. The caveat is the effects weren’t as noticeable on the individuals who were already heavy caffeine users.

My next favorite reason for drinking caffeine is that it improves fat burning by increasing fat metabolism. Caffeine has been showed to spare muscle glycogen (those are the carbohydrates stored in your muscles that you burn when exercising), which enhances body fat loss. Caffeine can help the body break down fat about 30% more efficiently if consumed prior to exercise. Remember, you must be exercising for this to happen! Also, if you’re the type of person who likes to work out early in the morning and don’t feel the need for breakfast, that may be because caffeine can keep blood sugar levels elevated, leaving you less hungry during and just after exercise.

Spoiler alert: A new study suggests that drinking coffee just before a workout can be a bad idea for some. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology reports that the amount of caffeine in just two cups of coffee limits the body’s ability to increase blood flow to the heart during exercise. That’s a big problem since the body demands more oxygen and nutrients during exercise. It’s the heart’s job to pump the necessary amount of blood (which carries oxygen and nutrients) to the muscles needing it. For people who exercise at altitude, the reduction in blood flow is greatly magnified. So for people who have high blood pressure or other heart conditions, you may want to think twice about caffeine before exercise.

Spoiler alert #2: Caffeine can increase the body’s levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone”, which can have several negative affects on health from weight gain and moodiness to heart disease and diabetes. Many experts believe that increased levels of cortisol create stronger cravings for fat and carbohydrates, (i.e. comfort foods) and, that cortisol causes the body to store fat around the belly. Abdominal fat has more health risks than other types of fat.

Back to the good news, the third reason I vote for Joe is that caffeine stimulates the brain, increasing awareness and concentration. Basically, it helps you focus. I’ve got a lot of clutter in my brain, personally, so this is bit benefit in my book!

Coffee factoids:
– Coffee can contain anywhere from 72 to 130 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce serving, depending on the bean source and the brewing methods.
– Coffee can be a surprisingly good source of antioxidants.
– Caffeine is a diuretic. Be sure to drink plenty of water the more caffeine you drink.
– Caffeine used to be on the IOC’s (International Olympic Committee) banned substance list.

According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate doses of caffeine of about two to four cups of brewed coffee a day (200 to 300 mg), aren’t harmful for most people. Negative health affects typcially come with heavy daily consumption of more than 500 to 600 mg/day (about four to seven cups of coffee).

Sorry if you tea-totalers feel neglected. But you probably already know there’s plenty of good news for you. The health benefits of tea are well known thanks to the antioxidant flavinoids. Tea contains less caffeine than coffee so you can drink more of it without worrying. Green tea can contain anywhere from 9 to 50 milligrams per 8-ounce serving. Black tea typically contains between 42 to 72 milligrams per cup.

Bottoms up!

Jill Brown
Jill Brown
Hi, I'm JillI am a Los Angeles based Fitness + Nutrition Coach. With 20+ years of experience in teaching, training and continuing my education, I have transformed thousands of lives through fitness and healthy lifestyle changes.