Coffee and Fitness
If you were to walk into the typical gym and ask those people working out if coffee is a reliable aid to building muscle growth you probably wouldn’t be surprised by the answers given. Those who consume coffee on a regular basis will tend to say “yes” while those who abstain will either say “no” or “maybe.”
Those who love coffee are always looking to find the health benefits from a good ‘ol cup of Joe and over the years, the coffee bean has either been held up as a hero or a villain depending on whatever the latest research suggests. Currently, that research is in favor of coffee as an aid to health. But how about your workout? Can the beverage really help you achieve your goals and build muscle?
Coffee Tests are Tricky
As any coffee connoisseur will tell you, all coffees are not created equal. A cup of espresso at Starbucks is not the same as one found at your local coffee shop. There are many reasons for this including the quality the beans, the roasting methods and how long those beans are roasted for. These variations will not only affect the taste of the product, but will also change the chemical compounds and caffeine levels.
“Currently, it’s a tall order to conduct coffee studies with standardized batches whose chemical compounds are exactly the same, due to variations in climate, harvesting cycles, processing, roasting, and brewing,” says Stephanie Lee in her article, “Grounds for Debate: The Truths About Coffee” for Bodybuilding.com. “There doesn’t seem to be a standard as to what is considered low, moderate, or high intake of coffee. The four daily cups that would send jitters through one person might just be a warm-up for someone else” (BodyBuilding.com).
Because of these variations, it is difficult to come to a definitive answer as to the benefits or lack thereof of coffee intake in rewards to working out. It is also reasonable to assume that this may be a reason why we get conflicting information about coffee consumption in general. Still, there are some generalized reports to review that can give some insight.
Coffee Can Help with Fat Loss
The caffeine found in coffee will affect testosterone and cortisol levels. The good news is that the caffeine creates a fat-releasing effect which is called lipolysis. This is when fat molecules are broken up into free fatty acids. They increase a fatty acid oxidation while one is working out and this helps to aid in fat-burning. It also increases testosterone concentration. However, it is also well known that too much caffeine will raise cortisol levels which slows down the fat-burning process and can negate the positive effects. When one’s cortisol levels are high, the testosterone levels will be low and the opposite is true as well.
One study involving two dozen professional rugby players measured the effects of caffeine intake with doses of 0, 200, 400 and 800 mg prior to a resistance-exercise time. Saliva samples were taken before, during and after the training session and used to measure the levels of testosterone and cortisol.
What the researchers found out was that testosterone increases about 15% during a workout all on its own. The rugby players that were given 800 mg of caffeine increased their testosterone levels an additional 21% which is impressive. However, the cortisol levels in those same players also rose about 52% (ProjectsWole.com).
But many researchers believes that the biggest negative here isn’t the coffee consumption itself, but what people add to their coffee including sugar and creamers and how much. Black coffee typically has less than 10 calories per cup and is loaded with antioxidants. The more “black” your coffee is (and if consumed in moderation) will help one achieve their fitness goals. It is worth nothing that drinking coffee will not make one skinny. You still need to burn off more calories than you consume.
Coffee Will Not Dehydrate You
We’ve all heard it before that “plain water is better than coffee because coffee will only dehydrate you.” But it isn’t true. “Myriad studies unequivocally lay this notion of coffee—and exercise—induced dehydration to rest,” says Lee. “A research review by the American College of Sports Medicine found that caffeine neither reduces hydration nor causes any electrolyte imbalances.” Another study found that coffee actually hydrates the body the same way that plain water does. So, coffee won’t make you pass out when working out.
Coffee’s Antioxidants are Amazing
Muscle and Fitness magazine points out that one of best sources for antioxidants in the American diet can be found in that morning cup. “That isn’t to say it’s the food highest in antioxidants, but we consume so much Joe that we get more of these nutrients from coffee than from any other food source” (MuscleAndFitness.com). The antioxidants that coffee provides go to work immediately fighting off free radicals that come about while one trains. The magazine says that coffee helps to reduce the damage.
Coffee Can You an Extra Boost
Why do some many athletes swear by their morning cups of coffee? Caffeine raises adrenaline which some researchers believe can actually blunt some pain or increase one’s threshold for pain that comes with anaerobic training helping one to push themselves further with their training. It can also help increase one’s endurance and offers a physiological benefit as well by lowering one’s perceived level of effort while working out.
Researchers are pretty much in agreement that this benefit pertains to those who perform in endurance sports but some also believe caffeine can help those who weight lift as well. In 2016, the European Journal of Sport Medicine reported the finding of the performance-enhancing effects of coffee. While testing 54 fit men with a weightlifting and cycling challenge, the participants took in 300 mg of caffeine which helped to prevent fatigue during the repeated cycling sprints (LiveStrong.com).
Another test recorded in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research involving nine healthy men showed an increase in exercise capacity while performing bicep curls. The men were given either caffeine (equal to about two and half cups of coffee) or a placebo right before the weightlifting exercise. It proved that the men were able lift more and experience less muscle soreness after the test was over.
At the very least, coffee will no doubt keep one more alert and most experts says that if one believe that they perform better with java, there is no reason to stop drinking the brown stuff.
Coffee Can Help Build Muscle Mass
Those wanting to not only increase muscle strength but also size, can also benefit from consuming coffee and caffeine. The process of increasing muscle size is called hypertrophy, but some have had some concerns that caffeine might have a negative effect on muscle mass. In 2016. A group of two dozen healthy men sampled either caffeine or a placebo during a period of exercise lasting seven days then they switched what they were consuming for an additional week. The end result saw an increase of interleukin 6 which helps in regulating cell growth and immune functioning.
Making Coffee Even More Powerful to Build Muscles
Alain Gonzalez is firm believer in the power of black coffee and its energy-boosting properties, but he also likes to spike his morning cup with a couple herbal compound that he says will make one’s workout more “advantageous.” This first is an ancient mushroom that is most often found within birch trees.
According to Gonzales, chaga was once a “secret weapon” that was passed around between the members of the Russian Olympic team. The 220-pound powerlifter, Fred Hatfield has seen the benefits of chaga as well and credits the mushroom for helping him break a world record for squatting 1014 pounds.
Posting on his website, Muscle Monsters, Gonzales says chaga is an anti-inflammatory which helps prevent cortisol levels to spike too high. “Adding chaga extracts to your coffee will be a good defensive move against inflammation, which causes high cortisol,” says Gonzales. He says that the chaga will also keep your body feeling better overall. “That way when you hit the gym, your body won’t secretly be trying to fight off inflammation, when you really need it to get that heavy barbell off your chest.”
The other herbal extract that Gonzales is a fan, which also comes from a mushroom, is cordyceps which is says is “straight money.”
“[Cordyceps is] the most expensive herb in the world. And it’ll definitely add some value to your already valuable cup of coffee in the morning…” he says. “Research has concluded that cordyceps is one of the best energy boosters on the planet. One of the main ingredients found in this powerful mushroom is adenosine, which is identified as a key component to ATP, your body’s natural energy source.”
ATP or Adenosine triphosphate is known as the primary carrier of energy in the cells of the body and Gonzales says is a pure energy source that helps the body burn off stored fatty acids which in turns provides more energy. That extra energy also works as a natural testosterone booster.
The Bottom Line
While coffee is getting all the rave reviews, most researchers point out that it is really the caffeine in it that makes all the noticeable difference when working out. Bryan Myers from Live Strong advises that it is better to drink coffee an hour before one’s workout. He also points out to be careful to not consume too much of the beverage as larger doses of caffeine will have a negative effect on one’s sleep. Another word of caution — pregnant women should really discuss how much, if any caffeine they should consume as it could affect their unborn babies.
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