Is Coffee Good or Bad?

Drinking coffee has become such a regular occurrence in our lives it is almost like a religous ritual. First thing in the morning, break time at work, a business meeting and even a 10 minute break from shopping normally means a cup of coffee or two. So is all this coffee doing us good or bad?

Coffee isn't just warm and energizing, it may also be extremely good for you. In recent years, scientists have studied the effects of coffee on various aspects of health and their results have been nothing short of amazing. But we do still need to be careful with coffee. This article explains the huge benefits, but also the observations I have made from excess coffess consumption from my time in the industry.

Coffe is rich in antioxidents which suggests there are clear benefits to drinking coffee. The antioxidants caffeic and chlorogenic acid that coffee provides are protective against cancer and other disease. An example of how the antioxidants lower cancer risk is with endometrial cancer, which is a cancer of the lining of the uterus. A study of over 67,000 women demonstrated that women who drank 4 or more cups of coffee per day had a 25 percent lower risk than those who did not drink coffee regularly. Researchers think the high antioxidant activity in coffee lowered oxidative stress, and that coffee also upregulates the expression of enzymes in the liver that help metabolize estrogen. This plays a role in preventing estrogen-related cancers such as breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer in men.

Coffee also benefits cardiovascular system and has been repeatedly found to decrease risk of heart disease and death from a heart attack. In one 15-year study of 41,000 women, drinking up to 3 cups of coffee a day was linked to lower risk of heart failure. Similar results have been shown for men. The antioxidants in coffee also improve total cholesterol, raise “good” HDL cholesterol, and lower inflammation related to heart disease. In one study, regular coffee drinkers were asked to increase their coffee intake to 4 and then a whopping 8 cups a day. This dosing improved the ratio between “bad” LDL and HDL cholesterol by 8 percent.

Although caffeine has numerous health benefits what I often see with clients from their 'Food Diaries' is that they are on caffeine rollercoasters and rely on coffee to get them through their stressful lives.So I personally don't like excess caffeine in the diet.  A morning coffee undoubtedly picks you up, but when you start coming back down more coffee isn't your best bet. If you ride the coffee rollercoaster it will lead to daily fluctuations in energy and alertnerss and everntually to chronic and adrenal exhaustion. Another danger of coffee is that your body adapts to it, so the high you get after one expresso will soon wear off and you may need two for the same high. In other words, caffeine affects your body just like any drug. You start taking it slowly, but as your body develops a tolerance to it, you need more and more to feel the same effects. Eventually, your body reaches a point where it can't be without it; otherwise, you will start to experience withdrawal symptoms. I see this in clients regularly and the withdrawel symptoms are normally headaches for anything from one day to a week.

Caffeine increases the stimulating neurohormone, noradrenaline, and reduces the calming neurotransmitter, serotonin. So is this a good thing or a bad thing? For me drinking coffee is about the timing. Let me explain. When you caffeine, it begins its effects by initiating uncontrolled neuron firing in your brain, according to Stephen Cherniske in his book, Caffeine Blues. This excess neuron activity triggers your pituitary gland to secrete a hormone that tells your adrenal glands to produce adrenalin.

Adrenalin is also the source of our "fight-or-flight" response, which enabled our prehistoric ancestors to escape from saber-toothed tigers and other predators. By stimulating your adrenal glands to produce adrenalin, caffeine puts your body in this "fight-or-flight" state, which is useless while you're just sitting at your desk. When this adrenal high wears off later, you feel the drop in terms of fatigue, irritability, headache or confusion. However this adrenalin release is perfect for a preworkout boost. I highly recommend a black coffee for all my clients pre workout. Here is why:

These stats are from Charles Poliquin:

Coffee Reduces Muscle Soreness and Increases Recovery: Caffeine can speed recovery and reduce post-workout muscle soreness by up to 48 percent. It can also improve performance during a second high-intensity workout performed in one day. One study showed that giving athletes 8 mg/kg of body weight of caffeine after performing a glycogen-depleting exercise trial to exhaustion allowed for better performance on a second sprint interval test also done to exhaustion 4 hours later.The group that took the caffeine went for 48 minutes compared to only 19 minutes by the placebo group and 32 minutes in a group that only drank carbs. Researchers suggest the caffeine may improve muscle glycogen resynthesize post-workout, while mobilizing fatty acids to be burned for fuel during exercise.

Caffeine Increases Motivation & Reaction Time: Taking 4 mg/kg of body weight of caffeine improved reaction time on soccer skill tests in athletes when sleep deprived.  A similar dose increased motivation and led athletes to voluntarily do more reps using 85 percent of a 1RM load when sleep deprived, resulting in a greater volume compared to a placebo group.
Researchers also measured testosterone and cortisol response to training in this study. The elevations in these hormones correlated to the volume of load lifted, indicating that caffeine did not lead to greater cortisol production.

Caffeine Increases Power & Strength Performance: You can improve power and strength performance by getting the right dose of pre-workout caffeine from a supplement since using coffee as your sole source of caffeine would require 6 to 9 cups for a 90 kg lifter, depending on sensitivity to the caffeine. One study found that a dose of 3 mg/kg of body weight of caffeine is necessary to improve power output in the squat and bench press. Another study showed that taking caffeine before early morning workouts can elevate performance in the morning when it is naturally diminished compared to later in the day. Caffeine is thought to act directly on the muscles to produce greater power and strength, rather than acting directly on the nervous system.

Coffee Improves Body Composition & Elevates Fat Burning: There is compelling evidence that coffee increases your metabolic rate so that you burn more calories, and it can help shift the body to burn fat rather than glucose for energy. In addition, coffee modulates blood sugar and can improve insulin sensitivity.  One study found that a high-dose of green coffee extract (1050 mg) taken for 6 weeks resulted in an average 8 kg loss in body weight and a 4.4 percent drop in body fat—very impressive! A low green coffee dose produced no changes in body composition.

For best results with coffee, drink organic with non-chlorinated filters. It’s been suggested that the chemical process used to decaffeinate coffee will contaminate it, making it reasonable to opt for the caffeinated version unless you find you are very sensitive. So always go for caffeine over decaffeinated. The editorial in the AJCN noted that the growing body of evidence shows coffee “is not as bad as we were told.” In fact, it’s time to change the perception that it is a beverage that is more trouble than it’s worth.

So in conclusion I'd highly recommend coffee pre workout. I personally like a strong black coffee before I train. Never ever have coffee post workout, its terrible for you after exercise. The reason being caffeine increases cortisol and leads to the release of adrenalin. This is great pre workout, but terrible post workout. Reducing and clearing cortisol should be the primary focus after training. If you are sensitive to caffeine or have issues with cortisol but want the performance benefits of caffeine, take 2 to 10 grams of vitamin C after training. Vitamin C can speed the clearance of cortisol allowing for a better recovery. Magnesium post workout can also help lower cortisol levels.

Thanks to Charles Poliquin for the statistics on caffeine intake on performance.



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