Congratulations, it’s National Coffee Day and there’s still time to get in line at your local Dunkin for a free medium dark roast coffee. But should you? Should you get yourself wired and possibly dehydrated while rowing?
While common sense and your coaches nix the coffee run, so many of us just can’t help ourselves. And after writing my last post I had second thoughts about drawing attention to a perky boost of free coffee. After a little research, I found a NYT article that heralds the merits of caffeine as a performance enhancer. Weldon Johnson of LetsRun.com used coffee as a performance enhancer for the first time before his first 10k race and never looked back. The effects were startling for Johnson who was not a habitual coffee drinker and usually abstained from caffeine before a race. I like what retired sculler Mike Perry had to say about rowers and caffeine. Perry surmised that rowers “would see it as against the spirit of the law, even though it’s not against the law.” Perry conducted his own blind study and found that caffeine helped his performance by a significant percent and regrets not knowing about the merits of caffeine sooner.
But would you use caffeine as a legal performance enhancer? Research does suggest that caffeine can affect both endurance and performance in high intensive sports like rowing. Caffeine can jolt our brains past exhaustion, release stored calcium from our muscles while increasing the circulation of fatty acids so our muscles can engage and follow through strokes making the best use of our stored carbs for a strong finish. And you only need 4 ounces to feel a difference, which is less than a free and legal medium cup of dark roast coffee.
Then again research has indicated the need to consider how caffeine effects sleep and hydration so moderation is key to a beneficial outcome. Additionally, heart rate and blood pressure is accelerated in individuals not used to caffeine. So, be warned and practical in knowing your best self to gain your personal best.
Burke, Louise M. “Caffeine and Sports Performance.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. Vol. 33, (6). 1 December 2008, 1319-1334.
Del Coso, Juan, et al. “Prevalence of caffeine use in elite athletes following its removal from the World Anti-Doping Agency list of banned substances.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. Vol 36, (4). 1 August 2011, 555-561
Kolata, Gina. “Its Time to Make a Coffee Run.” New York Times. March 26, 2009, E1
Reynolds, Gretchen. “How Coffee Can Galvanize Your Workout.” New York Times. December 14, 2011