Coffee was in the news yesterday. A study published in the medical journal Circulation was reported on in the AMA Morning Rounds newsletter with the headline “Moderate coffee drinking associated with lower risk of death”. Over 200,000 people, mostly women and some men were followed for up to 30 years. The results indicated that persons who regularly drank moderate amounts of coffee had a lower risk of deaths from cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases (like Parkinson’s disease and dementia), type 2 diabetes, and suicide. The effect was most clear in never-smokers, ranging from 8-15%, and was greatest with up to 5 cups consumption/day, tapering off with >5cups. There was no difference between caffeinated and non-caffeinated coffee, indicating the findings were likely not related to caffeine. Information on use of cream, milk, or sugar in coffee was not provided. Most, 95%, of study participants were Caucasians so results can’t be generalized to other populations. The information was gathered by questionnaire. The authors concluded, “Results from this and previous studies indicate that coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle. (Click for link to abstract ”http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2015/11/10/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.017341.abstract)
This unexciting statement may be a bit disappointing, as some of us would like to think coffee is the elixir of health, rather than simply not harmful. The study authors took steps to disentangle the effect of smoking in the research participants, as it seems the greatest number of moderate to heavy coffee drinkers are also smokers, who are prone to developing respiratory diseases and lung and other cancers that can lead to death. In this study there was no evidence of an increase in mortality due to cancer when researchers excluded smokers from the statistical analysis. So it’s actually a big step forward to say that coffee is not harmful and that it’s not the caffeine that is providing the benefit.
THAT BRINGS US TO RUNNING AND COFFEE! The urban legend has been that caffeine consumption can improve endurance athletic performance and research results have agreed. Coffee itself had not been studied much. However, a study in 2013 (Click for link to abstract http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23573201 reported “that both caffeine… and coffee… consumed 1 hour prior to exercise can improve endurance exercise performance. “ In this study 8 males, trained cyclists/triathletes, with an average age of about 41 years, who were not heavy caffeine users, participated in 4 exercise sessions, each being 7 days apart, after an 8 hour overnight fast. One hour prior to exercise each athlete consumed drinks consisting of caffeine, instant coffee (same caffeine content), instant decaffeinated coffee, or placebo. At each session, 30 minutes of steady-state cycling was followed by a 45 minute time-trial. The participants were instructed to complete a target amount of work in the quickest time possible. Each participant completed a questionnaire to guess the test beverage after the session, as well as report any GI distress. Participants received no feedback about their performance until all 4 sessions were completed. Time-trial performance times were significantly FASTER for both CAFFEINE and COFFEE when compared to placebo and decaf, and were similar for both caffeine and coffee. Three of the 8 participants successfully guessed the correct order of test beverages; and guesses were better for detecting caffeine. No serious GI distress was reported in any of the trials.
So my 1st question is, can my early morning training session performance, before food is consumed, be improved by a cup or so of coffee? These participants reported to the lab between 6am and 8am for each 75 minute test session, after an overnight fast. I regularly leave the house with only coffee taken before an early morning run of several miles. Like the authors conclusions in the first study about risk of death, I hope this research is at least telling me it won’t harm performance! IF YOU DECIDE to INTRODUCE this into your exercise routine, be cautious. As always, start slow. Initially take an easily digested food source with you (?banana, low fat chocolate milk, energy bar with carbs), and keep the distance short that you run from the safety of home or car.
My 2nd question is, did the athletes good guess of when they were drinking caffeine mentally help their performance? Perhaps their guess about when they were drinking coffee was not as good, and since performance was still better than decaf and placebo, proves that the effect was only physical.
Regardless, I can use both a physical and mental boost in the early mornings. Where's my coffee?
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BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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