For love or energy: why do I drink so much coffee?


Decaffeinating

This is the second day of this week that I haven’t started my morning with a little caffeine.  If you know me, you know that I have a serious coffee addiction.  My mornings go the same way every single day:

– wake up

– wash face and brush teeth (did you know that enamel is particularly sensitive after you’ve had coffee?  Always brush before)

– go downstairs

– make coffee and oatmeal

– secure ice pack on right knee while oatmeal is cooking

– bring food upstairs and consume while checking e mails

– change into running clothes OR school/work clothes

– go run or to class or to work

It’s not that I’m unwilling to change my habits, but this is a routine that works out for me really well.  However, it does include caffeine.  Sometimes I think about it and I wonder: do I really need the caffeine, or is it just the taste that I crave?  It’s true, I’m a person who is really comforted by warmth: I love my oatmeal in the morning (even in the summer), and I’ve always been a big soup fan.  So could it be that my coffee addiction is psychological rather than chemical?

In order to try to figure

 

 

Funny story: I tried to write that blog post last Friday, but I couldn’t focus on anything.  I guess that even if I am capable of waking up without coffee, it really does help me focus on things.  In fact, a lot of people out there recommend caffeine to enhance physical performance – why do you think they’re making Gu with caffeine in it??!

You may be skeptical since we’re always told to limit the caffeine, but I did a little research (my inner nerd knows no limits) and a cup o joe can be a good way to keep all of the morning exercisers like me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  But before I get into that, I want to acknowledge the downsides.  Any stimulant can create a dependency, and coffee addiction has not always been so kind to my wallet.  It does bother me that something as silly as a beverage can have such a profound effect on my mood, and that if for some reason I don’t get my coffee in the morning I can be cranky and not as wonderful to be around as normal (haha).  Also, caffeine has a diuretic effect, so too much coffee without conscientiously knocking back a few glasses of water can dehydrate you.  That’s not good for anybody’s morning workout!

On the bright side, caffeine acts in several ways to enhance athletic performance.  Studies show increased duration of exercise and lower ratings of perceived exertion with caffeine consumption.  In terms of the nitty-gritty details that I love so much, you may or may not know that muscle contraction is an electrical phenomenon that is driven by calcium ion gradients.  Caffeine has been shown to increase the release of these ions in fatigued muscles, which increases the force of muscle contraction.  For me, this helps to keep me nice and energized during my morning run or workout.
Aside from this effect in the muscles, caffeine has an anti-fatigue effect on the brain and spinal cord: we’ve all had a cup of coffee to keep us alert and focused while studying for finals, right?  It helps a lot with a workout too, or when writing a blog post…

As Kari put it: “I’m glad you’re over that whole ‘no caffeine’ thing.  That wasn’t good.”

Amen.

 

Lauren

 

This article was written using the following as a reference:

Tarnopolsky MA.  “Caffeine and creatine use in sport”.  Ann Nutr Metab 2010;57(suppl 2):1-8

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