How Coffee Can Boost Your Running Performance

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When I stumble down stairs each morning, the first thing I do is make a bee-line to the coffee maker. Without it, my day just isn't the same. I love the nutty aroma, the familiar morning ritual of preparing the perfect cup of coffee, and the way it helps bring my day into focus after just a few sips. Holding a warm cup of coffee in my hands on a cold morning is one of life's little pleasures.

Coffee can help you run faster too. Numerous studies have documented a significant positive effect on endurance performance when subjects are given caffeine before a workout or race. It may be the most effective and legally permissible performance-enhancing drug on the market.

How Coffee Boosts Running Performance

So what exactly happens in the caffeinated brain of a runner? According to researchers from Coventry University, you can expect improved focus, reduced perception of effort, and general mood improvement. Basically, running will feel easier and you'll be more intent on hitting your defined goals. So, if you're heading to the track, you might want to consider a cup of Joe to help you zero in on your target.

Caffeine has also been proven to enhance reaction time, reduce negative effects of running in the heat, and even help runners burn fats more efficiently. Sound too good to be true? I haven't even talked about recovery after the race. In a study conducted by researchers at the School of Medical Sciences, RMIT University in Australia, it was discovered that glycogen stores are replaced 66 percent faster when athletes were given a recovery drink containing caffeine and carbohydrates, rather than carbohydrates alone.

Caffeine works quickly and lasts for several hours after being ingested, so the timing of your pre-race coffee isn't really all that important. A 2008 study on the effects of caffeine on a runner's 5K performance revealed some interesting data. Runners who ingested caffeine before their 5K race saw finish times improve by about 1 percent. That doesn't sound like much, but it could lower your personal best from 20:00 to 19:47.

The sweet spot for caffeine dosage and performance enhancement is five milligrams of caffeine for every kilogram of body weight . For a 150 lb. runner, that equates to 340 milligrams of caffeine. The USDA cites an 8-ounce cup as having 95 milligrams of caffeine. So, that means 3 or 4 cups should do the trick.

Of course, some coffee has higher caffeine content. In general, consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine is considered a health risk, and adds no more benefit to your running performance.

Dehydration is a concern among manner runners. According to the Mayo Clininc, this is not a concern. While caffeinated drinks may have a mild diuretic effect, they don't appear to increase the risk of dehydration.