Many of us grew up with some specific ideas about soda, coffee and caffeine in general: mainly that caffeine is a diuretic; it will therefore flush fluids from your system (make you urinate) and dehydrate you. Therefore, any of those types of drinks are bad choices for athletes at any point around a workout. But like so many other things we learned growing up, there is much about that ‘common knowledge’ that is incorrect and misleading. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why perhaps your next workout drink should have caffeine!
Before I start, a few caveats. First off, I know people who are very sensitive to any amount of caffeine and simply cannot tolerate it. Caffeine is a chemical like any other, and therefore different people respond differently. Always use caution when trying out anything new while doing strenuous activities and definitely check with your doctor if you have any strange feelings.
- You CAN hydrate with Coffee/Soda: yes caffeine has a diuretic effect … if you drink enough! Basically, you would need to drink more than 5 cups of coffee or 10 cans of soda (or 5 of the 24-oz Diet Mountain Dews I enjoy) in order to get the true diuretic impact. By then, the basic fluid content in your system will have you headed to the restroom more often! But just drinking a coffee soda or caffeine-enhanced energy drink can have the same basic hydration effects as water … and more!
- Caffeine can Improve your performance if done right: there are plenty of studies showing that consuming a soda or coffee about an hour before a race or event can boost performance. It is important that this is done in moderation, as too much caffeine can cause dizziness and even mess with your heart rhythms!
- Caffeine also boosts brain activity: Coffee isn’t just about staying awake, but can also possibly help your brain think faster and make quicker decisions according to some studies. This can definitely help when you are competing in an event when fast decision-making is key.
- Caffeine can help speed recovery as well!: It is well-known that within 30 minutes of a workout you, should rebuild your glycogen stores by consuming carbs in a healthy form like a sweet potato, chocolate milk, or whatever. However, in the past year a few studies have shown that having caffeinated drinks while getting your recovery carbs actually help rebuild your glycogen stores more efficiently.
- Coffee might have unique benefits: recently commercials for 5-hour energy have used the ‘caffeine is caffeine’ argument to try to convince people it is safe (and almost healthy). I have no idea about the specifics of that particular beverage, but by now everyone should realize that not all compounds that SEEM the same actually are. Naturally occurring products are different from chem-lab concoctions. Even with natural products, there is evidence that coffee provides some unique benefits in terms of brain function enhancement, including possibly fighting Alzheimer’s.
As always, be very careful messing with what you eat or drink, and always carefully monitor your overall nutritional plan when exercising. For example, for a long time people thought caffeine caused bone density loss, but what was happening was people were decreasing their calcium intake as they increased caffeinated beverage consumption! Strenuous exercise requires that you keep a close eye on your nutritional requirements and ensure that you are not sacrificing other elements by adding in caffeine.
Have you ever tried tried to add caffeine to your exercise routine? How does it work for you?