Phoenix Ignition Fitness Company

Fitness by the Fire:The benefits of coffee before exercise

by Ron Kennedy • March 20, 2019
My day typically starts rather early. Assuming I am not woken several times through the night from my 8-month-old discussing his opinions on astrophysics and the current direction of the U.S space program, my first appointments of the day typically kick off at 6:00 am. To make matters worse, I have a career where I’m expected to be rather vibrant and inspirational at those early hours of the morning. Needless to say, I am a big fan of coffee and the effects it has on my day. That is not to mention the Saturday and Sunday morning snuggle session I have with my family, lounging on the couch sipping a nice cup of Joe. Hell, I have a cup of the black stuff next to me at this very moment as I compose! Despite my own use and believe in coffee, I am frequently asked if it is safe from a health and fitness standard.

For years, physicians have been warning about the negative health effects of drinking coffee. You may have been told that coffee will raise your blood pressure, lead to heart disease, give you an ulcer or make you diabetic. But studies continue to roll in that cast doubt on this "common wisdom." Certainly, like anything, coffee should not be used in excess. However, study after study has failed to prove that moderate coffee consumption increases your risk for cardiovascular disease or any other serious illness.

In fact, it's beginning to look like coffee—at least in moderation—may have a number of unrecognized health-promoting properties. As a result of the rather impressive list of therapeutic benefits, I've changed my recommendations about coffee. One of the latest studies confirms earlier studies that coffee may actually reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Regardless of traditionally ominous warnings that coffee should be avoided, it's being consumed in massive quantities worldwide. Although it's inarguable now that coffee does have therapeutic benefits, if you are dousing your cup of Joe in creamer, sugar, and other sweeteners and flavorings, you are missing out on the therapeutic benefits and potentially harming your health.

The Good Side of Coffee

Although organic, coffee as a complete food can be therapeutic. Caffeine in isolation can be quite toxic as well. The natural blend of polyphenol antioxidants (including chlorogenic acids), bioflavonoids, vitamins and minerals in coffee beans all work together to help neutralize the harsher effects of the caffeine2. There are literally thousands of different natural chemical compounds in your brew, and science now suggests the synergy between them can pack a nice nutritional punch.

With all of these compounds, you might wonder if there are any that have undesirable health effects. Yes, there are. But as I mentioned earlier, these are more concerning if ingested in isolation, as opposed to being consumed as part of the whole food.

“Yet, what about the caffeine…?”

Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world and can be helpful or harmful, depending on how it's used. Caffeine provides a "lift" by blocking the normal action of adenosine. Adenosine normally slows down your brain's activity and induces sleepiness. Some people are caffeine sensitive and don't tolerate it well, or have problems sleeping if they have caffeine too late in the day.

Caffeine levels vary depending on type of bean, roast, grind, and brewing method. Contrary to popular belief, darker roasts typically contain less caffeine than lighter roasts due to the prolonged heat breaking down more of the caffeine molecules. Bean species also differ widely in their naturally occurring concentrations of caffeine. Additionally, drip coffee actually has more caffeine than espresso because the brew time is much longer. And in general, the finer the grind, the higher the caffeine in the coffee. So, you might want to vary some of these factors if you experience a reaction, like switching from drip coffee to espresso, or changing brands.

If you have an issue with decreased adrenal function, use coffee with care, as it can be hard on your adrenal glands. Coffee also has a diuretic effect, so if you have problems with electrolyte imbalance, you might want to avoid it.

If you have any negative reactions to coffee, caffeine isn't always the culprit. You could be sensitive to some of the burnt sugars or oils produced during the roasting of the beans, rather than the caffeine. People experience symptoms such as stomach cramping, heart palpitations and other autonomic symptoms, and these symptoms are usually interpreted as caffeine sensitivity when they are actually more of a food intolerance. There is also the possibility of mold or other contaminants triggering an allergy (as coffee is a dried food), so you want to make sure your coffee is of the highest quality and meticulously produced. But as a whole, if you're healthy, coffee is pretty well tolerated, and the positive effects seem to outweigh the negative ones for most people.

Coffee and Exercise:

Here is an eye-catching statement for you; coffee increases your metabolism by up to 20 percent! However, coffee is a potent substance and should be used only in moderation—without sugar. It is recommended having just one cup of organic coffee or one shot of espresso in the morning or before training, and that's it for the day. If you exercise in the morning, have your coffee prior to your workout, NOT after. Consuming coffee after your workout interferes with your body's muscle-building mechanism. Again, your body can handle whole, fresh organic coffee because it doesn't hit your system the way synthetic caffeine does. But you don't want to go overboard.

If you want ultimate control over the quality of your coffee, as well as great cost savings, you may want to check into roasting your own beans. Many places are now offering dried organic green coffee beans for sale at less than half the cost of roasted. This can amount to a huge savings over grocery store prices—and is certainly more cost effective than daily visits to your local coffee house, even after the cost of a small home roasting machine is factored in. Your coffee will be fresher and the nutritional benefits more dependable. And it's fun!