Should you consume caffeine while working out?

It depends!…

Did you know that caffeine is the most commonly used legal drug?  90% of adults consume caffeine on a daily basis and usually it is used to just make us feel ‘normal’.  It is found in black and green tea, coffee (even decaffeinated contains some caffeine), fizzy drinks, energy drinks, some pain medications and sports gels.  There is even some in dark chocolate!

What are the benefits of drinking caffeine?

Caffeine stimulates both our nervous and muscular system and therefore is shown to be beneficial when we work out as both these bodily systems are recruited quite heavily.  Caffeine works on our brains by increasing the concentration of B-endorphins.  When B-endorphins increase our perception of effort is changed.  We are able to increase effort, reduce fatigue and improve the recruitment of our muscle fibres ready for our next kick!

B-endorphins make us feel good too.  This is likely to enhance our performance and make us feel good about our workout.  These hormone-like substances also reduce our perception of pain making us work harder.

Whether we are working out or just going about our day, caffeine improves our alertness and focus by stimulating our adrenaline and dopamine receptors.

Good quality caffeine has been shown to be beneficial beyond sport by supporting our heart health and reducing harmful cholesterol.  Studies have shown is can improve glucose metabolism and insulin release too aiding in healthy weight management.

Is caffeine beneficial for everyone? 

No, it isn’t.  Each and every one of us reacts differently to caffeine depending on our genetic make-up, our diet and nutrient requirements, our sleep, our stress load and our lifestyles.

Our sensitivity to caffeine and how well we detoxify it from our body is genetically set from birth.  It was no surprise to me when I did some genetic testing on myself that I react very readily to caffeine, but I was delighted to find out that I metabolised it quickly meaning that  genetically, I am able to detoxify caffeine well.  To find out your personal response to not only caffeine but to vitamins, gluten, lactose and more, book a DNA testing package.  More information can be found here – https://www.melaniefloodnutrition.com/testing

Caffeine can really exacerbate gut issues, particularly in those that suffer already with IBS like symptoms such as bloating, reflux, diarrhoea or constipation.  The tannins found in tea can be particularly drying and therefore should be avoided if you find it difficult to poop regularly and consistently.  Alternatively, caffeine can act as a diuretic causing diarrhoea and loose stools, not only reducing the absorption of key nutrients and minerals but impacting our sporting performance! 

If you are stressed out and regularly releasing stress hormone, cortisol, then caffeine can really exacerbate this and contribute to anxiety and heart palpitations.  When we work out, we release some degree of cortisol depending on the intensity of workout.  If you have a heavy stress load outside of exercise alongside an intense workout programme, you may wish to cut back on caffeine, so your body doesn’t get overloaded.

Caffeine can affect restorative sleep by reducing deep delta REM.  Sleep is fundamental to exercise performance and recovery.  You should prioritise your sleep each and every night.  Avoid caffeinated drinks past lunchtime so that sleep and exercise recovery is not impacted.

Do you rely on sugar and sweets to get you going?  If yes, it is likely that your blood sugar may be out of whack.  Drinking too much caffeine will only worsen this so go easy on your intake as it may cause energy dips in the longer term.

How is your diet overall?  Are you suffering with low iron or vitamin D?  Low iron is common in menstruating females and low vitamin D is very common the further away from the equator that you live.  Be mindful that caffeine can act as a bit of an anti-nutrient, reducing the absorption of calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins and iron.  

What are the best sources of caffeine?

Being mindful of where you are sourcing your caffeine is vital!  Many fizzy drinks and sports gels can contain a lot of ‘bad’ stuff that isn’t going to make us feel good long term.  E.g. artificial sweeteners, chemicals, preservatives.  

By buying the best quality teas, coffee or chocolate you will be ensuring that your caffeine will not only support your sporting goals but your recovery too.  Look for antioxidant rich sources that are filled with polyphenols so you can optimise both your health and your performance.  

Here are some links to my favourite brands with some special discounts for the CBA community!

EXHALE coffee – This has the highest active antioxidants and polyphenols of all coffee that I have seen.  It is organic and free from mycotoxins and pesticides.  It has been independently verified that one cup of this coffee contains the equivalent of 12 punnets of blueberries, 55 oranges or 1.2kg of kale.  I love my vegetables, but no way could I eat 1.2kg of kale!!

Go to www.exhalecoffee.com and enter MELANIE50 to get 50% off your first bag.

LONDON NOOTROPICS – I love this brand as it contains good quality coffee with adaptagenic mushrooms – trust me, it fabulous! Their ‘Mojo’ blend contains Cordyceps mushroom & Siberian Ginseng designed for physical endurance, strength and vitality. Great for increasing your stamina and performance with Chloe, alongside immune-boosting properties for when you need to power up!

Go to https://londonnootropics.com/shop/mojo-mushroom-coffee/ and enter MFN15 to get 15% off.

MATCHA GREEN TEA ENERGY BLEND from GREEN FOODS – providing sustained energy without the negative effects of conventional energy drinks.  Contains 100% organic matcha green tea for a slow release of caffeine and copious antioxidants alongside some organic brown rice for added carbohydrate.  

Go to https://naturaldispensary.co.uk/products/Matcha_Green_Tea_Energy_Blend_156g-10000785-0.html   and enter MFLD10 for 10% off.

PUKKA TEAS –  a variety of good quality, green tea blends with slow release caffeine and antioxidants and a gorgeous earl grey black tea.  

Go to https://naturaldispensary.co.uk/catalog/Pukka_Herbs-198-G.html and enter MFLD10 for 10% off.

written by our in-house nutritionist – Melanie Flood


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