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Dec. 24 2009 - 9:56 pm | 119 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Will run for coffee

A photo of a cup of coffee.

Image via Wikipedia

Right off the bat I’m going to admit that this article is biased – drinking coffee is as essential to my daily routine as breathing. Seriously. There have been a multitude of studies in the past few years regarding java’s effects on athletic performance. Some warn against imbibing (beware dehydration and increased heart rate) while others tout the caffeinated bean as the runner’s best friend. I’m not a scientist, doctor, or athletic trainer – I can only speak for myself – but I’m convinced that coffee makes me a better runner.

Recent studies suggest that coffee can:

  • help you run longer and think faster

  • increase sprint speed

  • improve your race times

  • and recover more quickly

A study by the Journal of Sports Science found that caffeine drinkers who consumed 1.4 mg for every pound of body weight, or 12 oz. of coffee for a 150lb runner, experienced a 1.2% improvement in an 8-K race. With evidence like this, I’m starting to wonder why USA Track & Field hasn’t added java to its list of banned substances. Maybe it’s not as serious as crack, but coffee is America’s most used stimulant and 60% of us consume it every day. The jury is still out on how much caffeine is needed to improve performance (and whether it has any effect at all), but even if it’s just a placebo effect, I’ll take it!

I’m definitely a morning runner. If I don’t get out the door by 7:30am, it’s likely that a run just won’t happen that day. Us runners are a pretty dedicated bunch, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s excited to begin a run in the cold pre-dawn darkness. There’s a time every morning while lying in the dark, alarm blaring, I consider rolling over and going back to sleep. Sometimes the only thing that gets me out of bed is the thought of coffee. I love the ritual of grasping my warm mug, inhaling the robust aroma, and taking that first slightly bitter sip. Coffee in hand, I scan the day’s news headlines and check my email. There’s no turning back, the day has begun. Suddenly, tying up my running shoes and heading out the door doesn’t seem so jarring.

Now, we’re all adults here. Can we talk about coffee’s most important function? We runners have to deal with some uncomfortable situations in the pursuit of the sport. There’s nothing worse than desperately needing a bathroom pit stop half way through a tempo workout or long run. What’s a runner to do? Well, you could cut out the fiber completely or start carrying a stash of TP. Or you could start a pre-run coffee drinking routine. It’s taken awhile to figure out the timing, but since I started consuming a cup of joe about an hour before I run, I haven’t experienced any unwanted GI distess while I put in my miles. Coffee does a great job of clearing things out, if you get my drift. Perhaps this was TMI, but for the sake of a good running experience, I felt the need to share. I truly believe that I have coffee to thank for 3+ years without any mid-run tummy trouble. Keep in mind that if you’re not a regular coffee drinker,  you shouldn’t test this out before an important run or race. That could be dangerous.

So thanks, coffee. You give me something to look forward to each morning. You make my runs more comfortable. And you’re the cheapest and most legal drug I’ll probably ever consume.


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  1. collapse expand

    Thank you for the very true post. I’ve been running for eight years, but just started drinking pre-run coffee last year. What was I thinking? I’m more alert, faster, and genuinely have a better time during an early workout if I’ve had coffee beforehand.

    …Not to mention your TMI benefit.

  2. collapse expand

    I’ve been a runner for 18 years and a coffee drinker for 2 years. I don’t know how I got by without coffee for so long. It definitely gets me ready for my run. Also it curbs my appetite so I can get running without much food sloshing around my stomach. Many sprinters I know use coffee to focus before their races. Go Java!

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Running Shorts is a part of the True/Slant network specializing in Running News, Trends, Insights and Perspectives. This blog is maintained by Megan Kretz (megan [dot] kretz [at] gmail [dot] com) and Geoff Decker (geoffreydecker [at] gmail [dot] com). Email either us with tips, suggestions or feedback. And thanks for reading!

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