For many consumers, caffeine is synonymous with coffee. At the mere mention of caffeine, images of coffee immediately come to mind. Tim Micklebrough has written a thorough discussion of caffeine independent of coffee and explains the relationship. He focuses on the issue of caffeine use in sports to help provide the competitive edge, but in the process provides much information of interest. Tim points out that caffeine is only one of more than a hundred chemicals found in coffee. Indeed, coffee is only two percent caffeine. As most readers know, caffeine is found in other beverages, especially the high energy drinks. It’s also in chocolate and teas and some over-the-counter headache and anti-drowsiness remedies. Caffeine’s effects on the body have been difficult to pin down despite much research. It IS known that caffeine can help athletes, as it can increase the basal metabolic rate and increase fat oxidation during exercise. It also increases the availability of free fatty acids which may lead to a glycogen-sparing effect, thus helping to delay fatigue. It improves reaction time and alertness and can prevent asthma brought on by exercise. On the downside, it has diuretic effects and in routine use the tolerance effect kicks in and the benefits are no longer obtained. Micklebrough’s discussion only relates to the use of caffeine as a supplement and not as it occurs naturally in coffee. Drinking coffee before exercising has its own benefits. For example, drinking it before working out can lessen muscle soreness following the exercise. But it might not share the energy prolonging effects of caffeine pills. An older study showed this effect for athletes taking the caffeine pills, but those consuming only coffee did not show any benefits of increased energy. Muscle soreness decrease – yes, but increased stamina – no. Of course, no caffeine pill can deliver the sense of well-being brought on by a favorite coffee drink. Those who drink coffee for taste and enjoyment could care less how much increased energy it provides, and this is especially true for the decaf drinkers among us.
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