Put a jolt in your workout with a cup of coffee?

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September 2012 View more

NMAG0912_HealthCaffeine is known to increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow. New research suggests that caffeine not only boosts your brain-power, but it may also boost your muscle power, making your workouts more efficient. Caffeine pinpoints the central nervous system, which in turn increases muscle agility and alertness.

RUN FASTER

If you’re in good health, and workout on a regular basis, try drinking a cup of coffee before your next run. There is evidence that caffeine can improve your game.

“Most studies have shown that a moderate amount of caffeine—three to five small cups of coffee—can result in significantly increased muscle endurance, greater anabolic metabolism and improved athletic performance,” said Holly Herrington, registered dietician at the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Caffeine may enhance performance by increasing the strength of a muscle contraction and ultimately providing you with better reaction time and increased running speed.

LAST LONGER

Studies show that caffeine may also help you build up your endurance during a workout. Researchers gave one group of bicyclists energy bars containing caffeine equal to the amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee. A second group of cyclists had energy bars without caffeine. The group that consumed the energy bars with caffeine rode farther and made faster decisions on cognitive tests. This helped the cyclists especially with quick decision making along the trail. With improved endurance, the fatigue was delayed, making the workout last longer.

RECOVER MORE EFFICIENTLY

If you run on a regular basis, you know it’s a good idea to rebuild glycogen stores by eating carbs. Recent studies suggest that caffeine may also enhance recovery. “Caffeine rebuilds glycogen stores up to 66% more than post exercise carbohydrate-only beverages, “ said Herrington.

DON’T GO OVERBOARD

While caffeine can boost your heart rate and your blood pressure, Jennifer Ventrelle, registered dietician and exercise expert at Rush University Medical Center, says there can be a downside to consuming too much caffeine. “Caffeine can also act as a natural diuretic, which can contribute to dehydration when consumed in large amounts and water loss is not compensated,” said Ventrelle.

If you’re physically active, experts say you may want to use caution. “By the time water or a sports drink is consumed, it may be too late to delay the adverse effects of dehydration, especially in hot weather. Symptoms of dehydration can include dizziness, disorientation, fatigue, fainting, and in severe cases, hallucinations, electrolyte imbalances, and heart arrhythmias, potentially leading to cardiac arrest,” added Ventrelle.

BUILD HEALTHY BONES

There are some studies that link caffeine with bone-mineral loss. But the scientific data reveals that caffeine itself doesn’t cause the mineral loss. It’s the fact that coffee was consumed instead of milk, or other calcium rich drinks. “Additionally, extremely high intakes of other caffeine-containing beverages that also contain phosphoric acid, such as dark-colored colas, have been shown, in some studies, to lead to calcium depletion,” said Ventrelle.

NOT A QUICK FIX

Caffeine enhances short-term power, short term high-intensity time until exhaustion sets in, resistance to fatigue, as well as endurance performance. But our experts have a few concerns. “Because caffeine increases the production of stomach acid, it may worsen ulcer symptoms or cause acid reflux,” said Herrington.

Other side effects include poor sleep habits and anxiety.

“I believe it is safe for someone who is used to drinking coffee or caffeine to consume one to two cups of coffee daily (about 160mg caffeine). However, I would not recommend using this substance specifically for enhanced physical performance,” said Ventrelle.

The experts recommend you keep the rest of your lifestyle in check. Eat a well-balanced diet, stay hydrated and keep moving every day.

See more of CBS 2 Meteorologist Mary Kay Kleist’s reports at www.cbschicago.com/marykaykleist