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Caffeine Or Coffee. Which Is Better?

Posted by Dr. Robert Portman on 1/13/2020 to Performance Tip Of The Week
Caffeine Or Coffee. Which Is Better?


There is a spirited discussion on the Internet on whether endurance athletes would benefit from taking coffee or caffeine. A google search shows thousands of citations dealing with the pros and cons of coffee versus caffeine. Much of this discussion may be a result of a personal bias, whether you own a Starbucks or manufacture caffeine pills, or caffeine containing drinks or gels. The core question is whether caffeine regardless of form improves endurance performance. 

Numerous studies, over the course of four decades, have shown caffeine ingested before and during exercise enhances performance. Whether this effect is a result of a glycogen sparing action, improved energy transport to working muscles, improvement in muscle contraction or a reduction in fatigue signals emanating from the brain, still has not been resolved. However, the positive benefits in terms of endurance have been confirmed in multiple studies. So what the best form.

Fortunately we have an answer to this earth shaking question. A leading exercise scientist decided to test the hypothesis. He conducted an endurance trial in which subjects either consumed coffee, caffeine, decaffeinated coffee or a placebo. Both caffeine and coffee improved endurance parameters. There was no difference between the two treatments. Neither decaffeinated coffee nor placebo showed any effect. The practical advantage of caffeine over coffee is the caffeine content of coffee can vary. In general, an 8 oz. cup of coffee contains 95 mg of caffeine. The bottom line  coffee should be part of the pre and during exercise regimen of endurance athletes. And by the way let's also demolish another myth. Caffeine does not cause dehydration. 


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