A Cup of Joe or No?

A Cup of Joe or No?

Let me provide some of the pros and cons of caffeine, or in this case coffee consumption, and then try and summarize it all.

There are some negatives to consuming caffeine in that it may:

  • leach calcium from bones

  • decrease insulin sensitivity

  • lead to to insomnia

The first point can be mitigated by drinking a glass of milk and not going overboard on the quantity of coffee consumed.

As for the decrease in insulin sensitivity this is referring to the level of insulin required to process glucose and move it from the blood stream into the cells. A person with a high sensitivity requires less insulin to accomplish than someone with low sensitivity. Caffeine releases epinephrine, or adrenalin, which in turn causes insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when a normal amount of insulin isn't enough to do the job.

I don't think we need to explain how caffeine will keep you awake.

As for the benefits of caffeine there are a few. Caffeine will:

  • increase the time to exhaustion during performance

  • be glycogen sparing

  • can rev up the metabolism

When athletes are provided caffeine or a placebo, those receiving caffeine can go 19% longer.

During exercise, the body uses carbs for higher intensity exercise and the storage form of glucose in the body is glycogen. When caffeine is ingested prior to exercise there is a sparing of glycogen and it is not depleted to the same extent if caffeine were not consumed.

As we explained above caffeine leads to the release of adrenalin. A boost of adrenalin is definitely going to get us going and ramp up our metabolism.

So it appears there are both some concerns and advantages to caffeine. What should we do? Here's what I would do.

  • Drink your coffee in the AM only. Don't have any at lunch or the rest of the day. This will help prevent insomnia, if that is a concern, but you will still get the performance benefits in the PM. In one study participants did AM and PM exercise. When consuming caffeine in the morning only they still benefited from it 5 hours later for the PM exercise.

  • Skip the creamers, sugar and syrups. Coffee on its own has no more than 10 calories even for a large cup. But add cream, sugar and a shot of flavour and this quickly adds up almost 300 calories! Two cups a day will add over 4000 calories to your weekly caloric intake.

  • Know who you are. Life isn't fair. If you are a heavily muscled, regular gym goer who eats well you can enjoy your daily joe provided the above 2 conditions are met. However, if you have diabetes, are sedentary (not if you read this), and have poor nutrition (again, not you) then caffeine is going to have a different impact on your body. Here's why.

The heavily muscled person does resistance training and therefore will have better than average bone density. Calcium loss will not be an issue. As well, activity and specifically resistance training helps increase our insulin sensitivity which caffeine decreases. Lastly, the type of person who carries a strong physique and goes to the gym probably eats well also so there is less of a concern on eating empty calories or relying on energy fixes from caffeine.

One last piece of research I came across regarding caffeine I found quite interesting. When you eat a low glycemic meal with caffeine the meal registers as though it were a higher glycemic meal. So for example having some whole wheat pancakes with a cup of coffee might have a similar affect on your blood sugar as eating some regular white flour pancakes with a cup of water. So caffeine can turn a low glycemic meal into a high glycemic meal.

So Brendan, I hope this helps answer your question. At 2-10 calories per cup coffee is definitely not fattening. Knowing what you add to your coffee, how your body responds to insulin, the type and amount of exercise you get will help determine when and how much coffee you can handle.

okanaganpeakperformance.com 'always moving forward'