this machine runs on caffeine

caffeine for workout - runningYou only have to be in a room with Tess for 4.3 seconds before it become clear that she’s addicted to two things: running and the world’s most popular psychoactive drug. No, not Ryan Gosling – caffeine. Tess, one of our GEC educators and a marathoner extraordinaire, tells us why she believes in a good hit of caffeine before an intense workout.

caffeine: the wonder drug

Known in the chemistry world as trimethylxanthine coffeine theine mateine guaranine methyltheobromine (phew!), caffeine can lend a hand to help you get through some of your most gruelling workouts. It acts as a stimulant to increase your muscle reaction time and cognitive reflexes. Research has shown that caffeine can delay fatigue, reduce muscle pain during exercise, and lower your ‘perceived exertion’ making workouts feel easier. In addition to that, other research shows that having caffeine in your post workout recovery drink can help rebuild your glycogen levels faster than one without it. So, faster muscles, thinking and recovery? I’ll take it!

methods of intake

While there is no faster way to my heart than a strong double Americano with cream, I avoid firing up the percolator before I run. The combination of acidity and dairy can leave me feeling a little out of sorts, so I prefer to get my fix through gels. Each gel contains around 20 – 40mg of caffeine (roughly the equivalent to 1/5 of a cup of coffee) and acts as the perfect pick me up. I usually take my first gel 45 minutes into my run and then every 30 minutes after. My personal favourites are Vanilla Bean and of course, Espresso Love by Gu. Post-workout, I treat myself to that double Americano we talked about.

hydrate responsibly

There is a common misconception that caffeine dehydrates you faster than a package of beef jerky with a salt lick chaser. You actually need close to 550mg – about five cups of coffee worth - to affect your hydration levels. As long as you’re taking in electrolytes and some good old H2O, you should be able to caffeinate without a problem.

If you’re just like Tess (who identifies herself as a dedicated caffeine enthusiast) she strongly suggests finding a way to incorporate it into your workouts. Are you a caffeine exercise devotee too?

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Comment by Amelia — October 14, 2011 @ 11:17 am

This is so very wrong to advocate… As a former athlete, who now suffers from adrenal burnout, I can speak from experience that this type of behavior is advocating a pattern of behavior that is highly stressful to the immune and endocrine systems. If your body is showing signs of fatigue, then your are fatigued. If your body is showing signs of stress, then you are experiencing physical duress whether you like to admit it or not. The program of pushing through the pain for results and making mind the master over matter has led to premature burnout, chronic illness or injury, or exacerbated mental patterns that are potentially manic or obsessive.
There are ways to learn to understand the body your mind is a part of and by doing so learning to maximize your athletic and mental potential (in non potentially harmful ways).
I highly recommend the book “Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life” as well as indulging in a restorative yoga practice. If you want to do a more stimulating yoga practice, take time to educate yourself on the deeper attributes of the poses that you are undertaking. A yoga teacher that does not understand that yoga is an integrated practice of the mind and the body and has no knowledge of Ayurveda (the science of lifestyle meant to be fully integrated into the practice of Yoga) is nothing more than a glorified trainer.
If the goal is to truly maximize your potential, then please listen to your body. It’s powers of healing and then action are beyond our limited concepts of science and nutrition. Amazing things happen in the natural world that we have access to without resorting to synthetic means with short term results.
I hope that preventative medicine and individualized practices become more prevalent in a culture that puts results over the quality of the process.

Comment by Dawn — October 14, 2011 @ 11:57 am

I always caffeinate before a workout! I usually stick with green tea or coffee and a square or two of dark chocolate, but I’m now very intrigued by the Gu gels that Tess recommends.

Comment by Eden — October 14, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

I have been a “dedicated caffeine enthusiast” for years and can attest that it heightens my concentration and provides energy for projects at my desk and in my classroom. I have recently begun cycling (working my way up to 20 miles/day)…and I, too, have noticed that a hit of caffeine helps me perform more energetically and allows me to cycle longer. I am new at the sport and learning more about it and what my body needs everyday. But I was a little nervous about letting anyone know that I need two cups of strong, black coffee and a fiber one bar before I cycle. I don’t always have caffeine after I bike but I think now I will grab that non-fat latte with an extra shot without guilt or worry! Thanks, Tess!

Comment by Karen D — October 14, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

Caffeine makes me a better runner. I tried coffee, but gets my heart racing too fast. Powerbar Gels work perfect for me – just enough to perk me up at 430am and get out the door, but not too much that it makes me crazy.

Comment by Gray — October 14, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

What’s adrenal burnout? I’m trying to lose wieght and sometimes get very tired and get really hungry after my workouts any suggestions

Comment by Shalom — October 14, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

This is a very cute article! However I do agree with Dawn. I have been a competitive cyclist for years, and do LOVE my coffee, however I wouldn’t encourage the use of it as a regular training practice.

Comment by Julie — October 14, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

I’m really suprised that this was published. I know a lot of people love and rely on caffeine, but to suggest aquiring an addiction to enhance performance is really irresponsible. As stated in the article, caffeine changes your “perceived exhertion”, which essentially means it keeps you from feeling the messages your body is sending you. To me, optimal performance means listening to your body. Also, as any caffeine addict knows, you’re only borrowing future energy, meaning you’re burnt out when it wears off. That’s why people get to the point where they need caffeine to function. I’m not against caffeine as an occasional boost, but I don’t think an addiction is something to be excited about or promote.

Comment by Sam — October 16, 2011 @ 5:36 am

Awesome Tess!! I couldn’t agree more. I am a competitive runner and an avid coffee LOVER!!! I just won the Lake Tahoe Triple Marathon a few weeks ago with a little help from “2nd Surge” espresso energy gels. I have studied the effects of caffeine on performance for a long time, you did a great job of listing some of the benefits. Another benefit is an increased ability to metabolize fat for energy, which is a lot like boosting your VO2 max! And on top of the performance benefits, I just love the ritual of heading down to a local coffee shop, drinking too much coffee and letting the conversation ROLL!! Nothing like a good session of “spilling the beans”!

Comment by Blue Benadum — October 17, 2011 @ 10:36 am

I don’t know about adrenal burnout…but I do know that coffee is one of my favorite things in the world.

Comment by Alexis — October 17, 2011 @ 11:10 am

For all the haters out there, in case anybody hasn’t noticed, many many running publications, including RW magazine, and many popular running books also talk about the benefits of caffiene use. None suggest going overboard, but 1-2 cups of java a day isn’t really that bad.

Comment by twosixtwo — October 17, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

As a student who has been studying pharmacology, botany and drug plants, I’m shocked that this article was posted. While nothing is wrong with having a good cup of coffee once a day, I’m surprised it’s being endorsed to improve workouts. Many people don’t realize it, but at high enough doses, caffeine is HIGHLY lethal. Mix it’s stimulatory effects with a sympathetic nervous system that is already in overdrive after a run and you’re heading for some potential harmful effects. I wrote a huge paper on the mechanisms and effects of caffeine last year, and of course you’ll be able to find research and scientific papers that support the claims you’re making, however a simple search on any known medical or botanical database will also show the extensive research that’s been conducted to disprove your claims. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course, but I think the information you’re presented is very biased and is not providing lulu fans with both sides of the issue.

Comment by Stephanie — October 17, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

Ha! Love this. Perfect to those coffee naysayers.

Comment by Sarah's Fab Day — November 2, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

Hey lulu, just thought I’d toss my two cents in to the discussion…I’m a coffee-lovin’ girl, and I’m convinced that amid all the conflicting sides to this debate (coffee is bad camp vs. coffee is good camp) that the key is balance, balance, balance- Just like most things in life! For every study that says coffee is evil, I could show you another study that says the java is actually beneficial to your health. I heard on the news recently that women who drink a few cups a day are less likely to develop depression over the course of their lifetime. There have been times in my own life where I thought I could be depressed, but looking back I think it was extreme exhaustion and burnout. (NOT trying to say depression is not real, but I think many people could benefit mentally and emotionally by simply resting their minds and bodies sufficiently!) For me, I am persuaded that the secret to the good life is simply balance: get your eight or nine hours, work out, eat natural, clean and healthy food 90% of the time, drink lots of water, laugh freely and often, and love well, and for the love, don’t sweat the occasional dessert, latte, or glass of wine! There is no need to stress over indulging in the good stuff sometimes, as long as you are living healthy! What is the point of being healthy, if I can’t ever have a cup of coffee or a glass of red? I’d rather being healthy and HAPPY any day than be over the top hardline about anything…

Comment by Olivia — November 5, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

I have been a competitive triathlete for years. I agree balance is the key. A little caffeine works, using it regularly to get you started can become a problem especially for women. It can cause all kinds of other issues with bones, female systems, and stress responses. Sometimes we don’t know how much is to much until it has already done the damage. I suggest only use it when you really need it. If you are needing it often there are other issues you need to address.

Comment by Roberta Neumann — October 2, 2012 @ 5:27 am

I like looking through a post that can make
men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing me to

Comment by Bob — July 28, 2013 @ 5:54 pm

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