Most joggers and gym rats carry a water bottle or a sports drink, but what about toting a latte to a workout instead? A new review study from the University of Georgia indicates that drinking coffee can have a significant positive effect on athletic endurance.
The study, which was published in this month's issue of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, looked at nine previously conducted trials; "In the nine trials, participants either cycled or ran after drinking coffee ... In a majority of cases, endurance was noticeably improved after the use of coffee." More specifically, the study "found that between 3 and 7 milligrams per kilogram of body weight of caffeine from coffee increased endurance performance by an average of 24 percent." The study's author, doctoral student Simon Higgins, also found that "[drinking] coffee appears to be just as helpful as taking caffeine in the form of powder or tablets," substances that athletes have long utilized for their energy-boosting effects.
While coffee can help enhance athletic endurance, athletes should probably be careful about guzzling multiple pots of coffee before a game: The NCAA recognizes caffeine as a banned substance at certain levels. The organization notes student athletes would have to consume "about 17 caffeine-containing soft drinks" to fail a urine test — and depending on how strong your coffee is, that could be the equivalent of anywhere from four to nine cups.
Of course, not everyone reacts to caffeine the same way. Roughly 50 percent of the population is genetically programmed to process caffeine slowly, meaning just one cup of coffee can make them jittery and induce insomnia. If you fall into that category, perhaps it'd be wisest to stick to Gatorade and water for pre-workout beverages.