Is coffee bad for athletes?

Is coffee bad for athletes?

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  1. I used to be a D1 athlete and ended up passing out at practice after taking a Starbucks DoubleShot. Ended up in the cardiology department of the university hospital with a doctor listing all the reasons having a ton of caffeine wasn’t smart for athletics (for some people).
    The way he summed it up for me: yes, caffeine can help with performance in the short-term. You get a boost of energy, blood is flowing, etc. But in the medium-term you end up crashing and in the long run you can become overdependent which can have an impact on performance.
    I’m not an expert but for me, I got used to competing with caffeine and with every competition, I would end up drinking more and more coffee to get that energized “feeling.” Eventually, I was drinking so much that it became super unhealthy and I passed out. It’s not like I was drinking cups and cups and cups, but it was more than the recommended amount. That, mixed with the physical strain of athletics put me on the ground. I also found out that I can’t metabolize coffee/caffeine as well as some other people can.
    Point being, it can be a really slippery slope that creeps up on you a lot faster than you might expect. My doctor said this happens a lot more often than people realize and he recommended sticking to a drink with a lower level of caffeine so that the risk of “overdoing it” would be a lower.
    Side plug: I used to make my own version of a coffee alternative while I was competing and after graduating, I made it into a real product. Feel free to check it out if you want (we’re launching this fall):

  2. There is a new emerging field within nutrition called Nutrigenomics. Basically the study of genes and it’s relationship to human nutrition. One of the first break-throughs in this field was on caffeine.
    Basically we’ve been able to isolate a gene that is linked to the production of an enzyme that breaks down caffeine. Essentially if you have this gene then you produce an enzyme that breaks down caffeine very well and thus you are probably somebody who can have caffeine and immediately go to bed with no apparent side effects.
    Others it seems (slow metabolizers) do not possess this enzyme and thus take a very long time to break down caffeine. These are the people that have coffee in the afternoon and it keeps them up late into the evening.
    Genetic tests via a website like ( no affiliation I just like what they are doing ) can tell you if you have such a gene and are sensitive to caffeine or not.
    So the question is coffee bad for athletes?
    Probably not, in fact there is a host of evidence suggesting that moderate coffee consumption is good for your health (when you substract sugar from the equation) due to the high levels of antioxidants and phytochemicals found in coffee. However like wine, there is probably an upper limit (which for your average cup of coffee seems to be about 3-4 12 oz cups per day)
    What might be a problem is the caffeine found in coffee. So for this it will depend on the type of coffee you drink. Espresso and other dark roasts/blends have lower amounts of caffeine than their medium or lightly roasted friends (longer roasting removes more caffeine) so you can probably drink more of it, relatively speaking.
    If you have a problem with caffeine then there might still be health benefits from drinking 1-2 cups of decaf a day (provided you don’t use a sugar – black is technically the ‘best’ way to drink it). Coffee and health benefits is a lot like red wine and health benefits. Some is good for you, too much can be not so good for you.
    Now caffeine, if you can tolerate it, is actually a very good for performance and therefore athletics. Research has shown time and time again that it can boost performance and is even a controlled substance in the realm of physical preparation with the IOC. However you’d have to drink about an entire pot or about 2+ liters of coffee before a performance at the Olympics or other World event to test ‘positive’ for it as the upper limit they set is quite high.
    This actually makes the use of coffee as a stimulant significantly safer to use than chemically extracted pill versions of caffeine (which could put you above the upper limit because of the dosage typically used in those products) in the realm of performance.
    BUT the asterisk there is that depending on how much and how well you metabolize it, it may not be appropriate for endurance activities lasting longer than about 90-120 minutes. There can be some ‘crash’ effects noted depending on the individual and the tolerance which might hinder your performance in long-slow endurance sports.
    I have personally used it for power sports many times without ill-effect, but it also seems that I metabolize caffeine well.
    The last concern that often comes up about coffee and athletics is ‘dehydration’ which was recently proven to be untruthful. It doesn’t seem to dehydrate you as we initially thought, although even if you feel it does, you can easily compensation by consuming more water or liquid beverage depending on the sport.
    I’d encourage you to play around with it, outside of competition before using it in competition.


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