“I’ll have a Run to go…with a Cup of Joe!”

Coffee.

Yes, it does deserve it’s own line. And it could arguably deserve its own blog post of just, “Coffee.” But I’d like to tie in running and my experiences so we can give coffee, and running, and you, some more depth.

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Our neighbor who works at Ristretto Roasters here in Portland dropped us off some beans yesterday. It’s like she knew I was about to write a post about coffee.

It seems that the coffee debate just never ends. One minute scientists are preaching ill-effects of your morning Cup of Joe and the next minute they’re practically calling it a superfood. Okay, not quite. But for me, and most runners, it sure as heck comes pretty close to falling into that category.

Want a bit of evidence about how confusing the studies and constant back-and-forth can be? These two quotes are pulled right from an article I found while brushing up on my coffee facts:

“[Coffee] increases blood sugar levels, making it harder for those with type 2 diabetes to manage their insulin.”

And later in that same article:

Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. “Studies from around the world consistently show that high consumption of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee is associated with low risk of type 2 diabetes.”

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Talk about confusing, right? Maybe a credentialed individual (medical doctor, dietitian, food scientists, etc.) can make more sense of all the coffee noise out there, but to us regular folks who just want to know if we’re ingesting the black liquid of evil or the preferred drink of the gods, these kind of back and forth statements are just not helping at all. And this kind of stinks for the people who legitimately want to know if what they are consuming is good for them (and their exercise) or bad for them. I worry about this, too, when it comes to many foods, although it’d be more accurate to say, “…when it comes to certain ingredients and levels of nutrients.” But when it comes to coffee, I don’t worry. I can’t worry. If I worried so much, I’d be reading study after study, just to be about ready to pull my hair out the like the guy above. All I know is that I’ve run many long-distance training runs and races, drank generally the same amount of coffee up until long-run/race day, and certainly survived the entire experience…and got to enjoy my morning Day Starter (I’m not looking up coffee nicknames or anything as I’m writing this…).

Regarding caffeine’s best deliverer, I generally drink coffee everyday. There have been occasional days where we were out of coffee and I resorted to tea, and I enjoy tea, but…coffee. I probably started drinking el cafe somewhere around 4th or 5th grade…Oh wait. No. It ca’t be. Gasp! Am I proof of the “coffee stunts growth” argument? Ah well. Too late now. Oh and there’ no need to start writing my parents hate mail or sending them “Best Worst Parents of the Year Awards” –I was definitely limited to a child-sized cup and probably just one of them…mostly. This is directly to the contrary of what I was drinking several years ago which was upwards of 6 mugs a day. That’s quite a lot of Morning Thunder (definitely one of the top nicknames I’ve come across so far). I think it was so much coffee…or Thunder…that Val didn’t stand a chance against my coffee influence on her (she wasn’t much of a coffee drinker before we started dating, but now she’ll scold me for making it too weak or too strong…go figure). It was actually way too much coffee. I can admit that. But I’ll so have to admit then that I would sometimes make a couple cups just so I wouldn’t eat anything before or after dinner, even though I might have legitimately been hungry. Unhealthy habit, I know. I’ve long since changed that mentality, but man the things you’ll do when you are seeking a goal weight by a certain deadline.

“But Will, isn’t caffeine a diuretic, meaning that it has properties that promote and speed up the passing of urine, thus dehydrating the body?” It is indeed. “So you must worry a little that your 3-4 cups a day is going to lead to possible dehydration during your long-runs and races, right?” Not really. I know that my coffee intake means I need to hydrate more and so I do just that. But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t worry or consider coffee’s dehydrating effects, because a little knowledge and mindfulness wouldn’t hurt. For me: I’ve actually never really read much about coffee until preparing for this post. Did you know coffee/caffeine has properties that reduce sleep inertia (e.g. slowness in the morning) which helps make you feel more alert and awake. Okay, that was probably an obvious one. How about this: there’s a lot of evidence that coffee (about 1-2 cups an hour before your run is the most common finding) has some positive effects for running such as sparing glycogen use for a short period of time and instead using fat as fuel, thus allowing your body to use that saved up glycogen for later in the run. Neat, right?

 

If I were a cat, these would be my morning coffee before and afters. 

My relationship with coffee certainly has had its ups and downs. A different “down” than the unhealthy habit I confessed above, was not hydrating properly back in high school despite all the coffee I was drinking and the track and soccer practices I’d often have in the same day. Talk about a recipe for calf cramps! But I like to think that I’m now at my happy place when it comes to my favorite hot beverage. As mentioned, I drink about 3-4 cups a day at most, and 1 or 2 of those cups come at a crucial time for me: the pre-run. Why is this such a crucial time? Can I be honest? Like, really open and let it all out honest? I hate leaving for a run without going #2 beforehand. Have I done it? Yes. Did I survive? Most times, just barely. I’m sure many of my fellow runners out there can relate. Let’s just say thank goodness for construction workers’ need for porta-potties. And for tree cover. And leaves.

Instagram media eatrunanddone - Great picture metaphor. Yes, coffee, you are the center of my world. #coffee #cafe #coffeeaddict #coffeeaddict #work #ineedcoffee #ineedcaffeine #onlycoffee #coffeebreak 

Simply put: Coffee just works in my life. I thoroughly enjoy it and I couldn’t imagine not drinking it. If I were to seriously think coffee was having ill effects on my running, or if I was a professional runner who couldn’t take the chance of slight dehydration, then I’d definitely reduce my consumption. For once I can appreciate not running professionally! But…uhhh…ASICS, if you’re reading this, I totally didn’t mean that!). I’ll be keeping my coffee in my daily diet. Water and coconut water may have had to increase, but coffee…you’re good right where you are.

Okay, this is where my curiosity sets in…What’s your experience or attitude when it comes to coffee? Do you drink it or avoid it? Have you ever reduced your “battery acid” consumption and experienced improvement in your running or health? Did you start drinking coffee recently and see any effect on your running? Let’s talk in the comments!

(Disclaimer: Caffeine is a drug and I am not a medical professional or a registered dietitian or nutritionist and none of this article should be considered as my declaring that you should or should not drink coffee. If you have not consumed coffee or caffeinated beverages before or you have an existing health condition, please ask your doctor if caffeine is safe for you.)

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