Eight Reasons to Sip on Coffee

A cup of joe jolts your mood, reduces disease risk, and adds a kick to workouts.

By Liz Applegate, Ph.D.;  Image byImage Source/Alamy

Published February 14, 2014

A morning cup of coffee is a must for many runners. It wakes you up, energizes your workout, and—how can we say this nicely?—gets your systems moving, too. But there’s more reason to indulge in that second or third cup. The latest research shows that drinking coffee is a (mostly) healthy habit that may make you happier and less stressed, and reduce risk for diseases. Caffeine isn’t the only beneficial compound in coffee—it’s also a rich source of antioxidants, which means decaf drinkers benefit, too.

Power Performance
Researchers from the U.K. gave cyclists and triathletes a drink with 350 mg of caffeine, coffee with an equal amount of caffeine, decaf coffee, or a placebo drink. One hour later the participants performed a cycling test. The caffeine group and regular coffee group performed equally well—and both were faster than the placebo and decaf groups.

Boost Antioxidants
Arabica coffee beans are rich in antioxidant compounds called caffeoyl quinic acids. One study showed consuming three cups of Arabica coffee daily for four weeks can lower markers for oxidative DNA damage.

Improve Mood
According to a National Institutes of Health study, adults who drink four cups or more of coffee daily are about 10 percent less likely to be depressed than non-coffee drinkers. A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that drinking two or more cups daily of caffeinated coffee significantly lowers the risk of suicide. Scientists think caffeine may work as a mild antidepressant by impacting neurotransmitters, such as dopamine.

Lower Heart-Disease Risk
A study review published in the journal Circulation found that moderate coffee intake (three to four cups a day) is associated with a significant reduction in heart-disease risk. And a recent animal study suggests that coffee may positively impact blood vessel function and bloodflow.

Dodge Diabetes
A meta-analysis in the European Journal of Nutrition stated that for every two cups of regular or decaf coffee you consume per day, your risk for type 2 diabetes decreases by 10 to 12 percent. The greatest risk reduction is in drinkers with healthy BMI, which means coffee may help already-slim runners ward off the disease.

Enhance Brain Function
Research shows that the antioxidants in coffee may help protect the brain from cognitive loss and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. For two to four years, researchers tracked participants who were 65 and older and had mild cognitive loss. Subjects who averaged about three cups of coffee daily over that time frame did not progress to Alzheimer’s, while those who consumed less than that amount were more likely to develop the disease.

Protect Your Liver
A review of liver disease research shows that consuming one to two cups of coffee (not just caffeinated beverages) per day can protect this organ, especially for those at risk of poor liver health, such as people who drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day.

Relieve Stress
Take a whiff of coffee and you’ll likely feel better. That’s because coffee contains volatile aroma compounds that affect mood. When mice undergoing maze testing are exposed to these compounds, it reduces their arousal level, exerting an antianxiety effect.

The 5 Golden Rules of Sports Nutrition

Thursday, April 11, 2013/ By Craig David

When we think about our sports nutrition…what’s going to make it “golden?” On track, top notch, or better than average? In my opinion every athlete who is serious about performance should aim to have top notch sports nutrition habits. Our bodies have become these machines – dealing with everyday stress, stress of long and hard workouts, and stress under sleep deprivation. Nutrition is crucial to enabling your body to process the stress and nurture the body to higher performance.

In order to understand what comprises the golden rules of sports nutrition we first need to identify its ultimate goals. When we work with clients and are building their nutrition programs, sometimes we say things like “This may not make sense now, but it will in time” as we do things that may seem counter-intuitive at first – such as increasing their calories to actually lose weight (see, you don’t think it makes sense either, do you)! Why is this relevant? Because we need to comprehend the notion that in sport, whether it is endurance or strength, we are asking our bodies to do extraordinary things; so, we must feed it in extraordinary ways.

That said, the goals of sports nutrition can be categorized into four general buckets: understanding the stress response in relation to exercise, being able to control blood sugar before/during/after a training session, advancing recovery with different nutrients at different times, and to minimize the effects of cortisol.

Based on these main goals, here are the Five Golden Rules of Sports Nutrition.

(Drumroll, please…)

1) Avoid working out on an empty stomach.

If you haven’t eaten within the 2 hours prior to training grab a banana, an electrolyte drink, or something else that is light to keep your blood sugar steady.

  • For shorter workouts (less than 45 minutes) a piece of fruit would suffice. Make sure it’s fruit that your stomach is familiar with and can easily digest.
  • For a workout that’s 60-90 minutes, consider adding an electrolyte drink 1/3 or halfway through to ensure your body has a constant flow of carbs, and to prevent dehydration.
  • With a workout over 90 or 120 minutes, then you’ll want to consider taking in a combination of liquid hydration such as Skratch Labs drink mix, along with some form of solid food: bar, rice, boiled potato, etc. Find out what works for you in terms of liquid and whole foods and you’ll be ahead of the competition!

2) Don’t miss your breakfast.

This seems to set the tone for how your body utilizes nutrients throughout the day. We often hear that people “aren’t hungry” when they get ready for the day, and that’s perfectly okay. What I’d recommend is to start with something simple like an egg and a piece of fruit, or a glass of milk and a granola bar. Try being consistent for a week, let your body adjust to having nutrients in the morning and then you can progress from there.

Blood sugar should rise and be more stable with a protein/carb combo. For more sustained energy, add in some healthy fats; for example add avocado to that egg or put some almond butter in a smoothie or on your toast. You’ll stay full for hours to come and energy for that mid-day workout will be better than expected.

3) Have the meals 2-3 days prior to your event all planned out.

In doing so, you’ll ensure your body has what it needs for your event and the tank is “topped off” so to speak. We see so many athletes “wing it” and then wonder why they bonk or get dizzy or feel lethargic on race day.

To make planning easier, stick with foods you already know you like and won’t create any stomach distress. Stay away from foods with a high saturated fat content, or high fiber content. You’ll always want to match up a carb with a protein – stick to a 2:1 or 3:1 carb to protein ratio so insulin is in check and blood sugar stays stable. And yes, I’m recommending you cook it ahead of time! Pack your lunch, pull a pre-made dinner meal out of the freezer, plan your breakfast for race day and get up an hour earlier to give it plenty of time to digest. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself!

No need to overthink it, but do keep in mind that “failing to plan is planning for failure.”

4) Never skip your recovery meal.

If you’re skipping recovery nutrition, you’re skipping out on the ability to produce results from your training program. Figure out what recovery protocol works for your training, implement it within the precious 30-45 minutes after your workout, and eat within another 90 minutes after that…watch your performance soar.

Why do we recommend that athletes eat within 30-45 minutes after their session? Science shows us the good old “recovery window” starts to close within 45-60 minutes. Liquid recovery nutrition seems to be easier on the stomach, digests quicker and can be more convenient to use if you’re not at home to prep anything. Stash a protein shake or some amino acids in your gear bag so you can down it when you’re done. Then, when you get home, get in an equally distributed meal: some complex carbs, protein, vegetables and some omega fats. This will again, re-stabilize blood sugar and keep your body moving forward!

5) Get in a nutrient-dense snack before bed.

By nutrient-dense I mean some healthy fats, nuts, berries, protein – foods that will not spike blood sugar, but help keep it from dropping during the night.

Oftentimes we’ll get the question, “Shouldn’t I not eat after X time in the evening?” I guess you could say there’s a mental benefit to feeling good about not overeating or self control about what you’re putting into your body. However, from the perspective of fueling for sport, there’s not a lot of physiological benefit to fasting before bed; we know blood sugar is rapidly depleted during sleep to sustain the body’s processes. Furthermore, if we restrict nutrient intake, what would the body rebuild from during the evening?

I think the question to ask yourself is not, “Am I going to eat?” but rather, “What kind of food would be best for my body at this time of day?” Our athlete body is in constant motion, and in constant need of fueling and rebuilding itself. The worst thing an athlete of any kind can do is to restrict nutrients in hopes of improving performance. It just doesn’t work!

As you can see there’s a lot of rocket science going on (totally joking)! Now that you know the rules, ask yourself, “Is my nutrition ‘top notch’? Am I adhering to the golden rules?” Is your answer no, maybe or sometimes? Unless it’s a definite “yes,” you need to step back and consider your training load. Consider how much stress it is on the body. If you implement sports nutrition in such a way that it’s as high of a priority as training, you’ll create efficiencies and gains you’ve never seen before. Give it a try.

About the author

Craig David is the owner of the Max Muscle Sports Nutrition franchise in Boulder, CO and is a Certified Sports Nutritionist. Born and raised in Colorado, Craig grew up surrounded by the mountains, a small town atmosphere, farming, skiing and aviation. Upon graduation, Craig received a B.S. in Health and Exercise Science & Nutrition for Colorado State University. His career highlights include an internship at the White House Athletic Club in Washington, D.C. training some of the nation’s finest. He also has extensive experience in performance gear testing, horizontal power testing, and cardio pulmonary testing. Today you’ll find Craig speaking to high school and collegiate sport teams, working with the local SWAT teams, designing custom nutrition programs for the high-end professional athlete to engaging the average person in a corporate wellness education seminar. Join him in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle! Find him at C.David[at]MaxMuscleBoulder[dot]com or www.MaxMuscleBoulder.com.

Nutrition & Athletic Performance

The following key points summarize the current energy, nutrient, and fluid recommendations for active adults and competitive athletes. These general recommendations can be adjusted by sports nutrition experts to accommodate the unique concerns of individual athletes regarding health, sports, nutrient needs, food preferences, and body weight and body composition goals.

  • Athletes need to consume adequate energy during periods of high-intensity and/or long-duration training to maintain body weight and health and maximize training effects. Low energy intakes can result in loss of muscle mass; menstrual dysfunction; loss of or failure to gain bone density; an increased risk of fatigue, injury, and illness; and a prolonged recovery process.
  • Body weight and composition should not be used as the sole criterion for participation in sports; daily weigh-ins are discouraged. Optimal body fat levels depend on the sex, age, and heredity of the athlete and may be sport-specific. Body fat assessment techniques have inherent variability and limitations. Preferably, weight loss (fat loss) should take place during the off-season or begin before the competitive season and involve a qualified sports dietitian.
  • Carbohydrate recommendations for athletes range from 6 to 10 g·kg−1 body weight·d−1 (2.7-4.5 g·lb−1 body weight·d−1). Carbohydrates maintain blood glucose levels during exercise and replace muscle glycogen. The amount required depends on the athlete’s total daily energy expenditure, type of sport, sex, and environmental conditions.
  • Protein recommendations for endurance and strength-trained athletes range from 1.2 to 1.7 g·kg−1 body weight·d−1 (0.5-0.8 g·lb−1 body weight·d−1). These recommended protein intakes can generally be met through diet alone, without the use of protein or amino acid supplements. Energy intake sufficient to maintain body weight is necessary for optimal protein use and performance.
  • Fat intake should range from 20% to 35% of total energy intake. Consuming ≤20% of energy from fat does not benefit performance. Fat, which is a source of energy, fat-soluble vitamins, and essential fatty acids, is important in the diets of athletes. High-fat diets are not recommended for athletes.
  • Athletes who restrict energy intake or use severe weight-loss practices, eliminate one or more food groups from their diet, or consume high- or low-carbohydrate diets of low micronutrient density are at greatest risk of micronutrient deficiencies. Athletes should consume diets that provide at least the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for all micronutrients.
  • Dehydration (water deficit in excess of 2-3% body mass) decreases exercise performance; thus, adequate fluid intake before, during, and after exercise is important for health and optimal performance. The goal of drinking is to prevent dehydration from occurring during exercise and individuals should not drink in excess of sweating rate. After exercise, approximately 16-24 oz (450-675 mL) of fluid for every pound (0.5 kg) of body weight lost during exercise.
  • Before exercise, a meal or snack should provide sufficient fluid to maintain hydration, be relatively low in fat and fiber to facilitate gastric emptying and minimize gastrointestinal distress, be relatively high in carbohydrate to maximize maintenance of blood glucose, be moderate in protein, be composed of familiar foods, and be well tolerated by the athlete.
  • During exercise, primary goals for nutrient consumption are to replace fluid losses and provide carbohydrates (approximately 30-60 g·h−1) for maintenance of blood glucose levels. These nutrition guidelines are especially important for endurance events lasting longer than an hour when the athlete has not consumed adequate food or fluid before exercise or when the athlete is exercising in an extreme environment (heat, cold, or high altitude).
  • After exercise, dietary goals are to provide adequate fluids, electrolytes, energy, and carbohydrates to replace muscle glycogen and ensure rapid recovery. A carbohydrate intake of approximately 1.0-1.5 g·kg−1 body weight (0.5-0.7 g·lb−1) during the first 30 min and again every 2 h for 4-6 h will be adequate to replace glycogen stores. Protein consumed after exercise will provide amino acids for building and repair of muscle tissue.
  • In general, no vitamin and mineral supplements are required if an athlete is consuming adequate energy from a variety of foods to maintain body weight. Supplementation recommendations unrelated to exercise, such as folic acid for women of childbearing potential, should be followed. A multivitamin/mineral supplement may be appropriate if an athlete is dieting, habitually eliminating foods or food groups, is ill or recovering from injury, or has a specific micronutrient deficiency. Single-nutrient supplements may be appropriate for a specific medical or nutritional reason (e.g., iron supplements to correct iron deficiency anemia).

This joint position statement is authored by the American Dietetic Association (ADA), Dietitians of Canada (DC), and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The content appears in ADA style. This paper is being published concurrently in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise® and in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, and the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research. Individual name recognition is reflected in the acknowledgments at the end of the statement.

Preventable Pain Nags Most Office Workers

“Pain in the workplace is not normal,” said Lisa DeStefano, associate professor and chair in MSU’s Department of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine and a physician with MSU HealthTeam. “A lot of people think it’s commonplace, so there’s not an open discussion.”

That’s why DeStefano – as a spokesperson for the American Osteopathic Association – is part of a campaign to educate office workers about what they can do to stay pain-free. The effort grew out of an AOA survey that found two-thirds of office workers had experienced physical pain in the past six months and that a quarter of them thought it was just part of having a desk job.

Workplace pain occurs most often in the low back, neck, shoulders and wrists, according to the survey. The tension causing that discomfort also tends to cause headaches. Taken together, those aches and pains also lead to lost productivity.

So what’s causing so much pain?

“People slouch,” DeStefano said. “The pain goes with sitting at a computer all day if you treat your spine like a coat hanger. We can’t just hang on our spines, they’re not meant to function that way. And our neck muscles are meant to turn our heads, not hold them up while we slouch.”

To prevent office pain, DeStefano and the AOA say workers should:

  • Sit properly. When you’re sitting properly, your torso is balanced over your pelvis, your hips are rolled forward and your weight is on your “butt bone,” not your tail bone, DeStefano said. Even though your chair has a back, that doesn’t mean you should use it. Instead, sit closer to the edge of your seat with your feet flat on the floor. You should be looking straight ahead at your computer, not up or down.
  • Get moving. Workers should be sure to get up out of their seat at least five minutes every hour. Instead of sending a text message or short email to your colleague down the hall, get up and walk to their desk. “It’s amazing how many people choose not to get out of their chair,” DeStefano said.
  • Build strength. Along with its other health benefits, regular strength training is an effective way to prevent office pain. “It takes some muscle to hold ourselves up all day long,” DeStefano said. “Few people understand that, even though they sit at a desk all day long, they still need some conditioning.”

DeStefano noted that workplace pain is not a symptom of underlying disease – the pain itself is the problem – but it’s still a serious public health issue; chronic pain affects 100 million Americans, according to the AOA.

“Life doesn’t stop when work does,” she said. “People get home at night and have a headache, but they still have to make dinner and help the kids with homework. They still have to live their lives.”

Research We’re Watching: Hands-on treatment helps low-back pain

Osteopathic manual treatment (OMT) is a safe, effective way to relieve low back pain, according to a study published in the March/April Annals of Family Medicine. In this study, researchers randomly assigned 455 people (ages 21 to 69) to receive various combinations of OMT, ultrasound therapy, or sham (fake) versions of these treatments. At the end of six treatment sessions, participants who received OMT reported less low back pain than those who received sham treatments. OMT-treated participants were also more likely to be very satisfied with their back care, and they needed fewer prescription medicines to relieve their pain. Side effects from OMT were minimal. Ultrasound treatment was not effective, the study found. Researchers did not evaluate the cost-effectiveness of OMT treatments, which can run $100 or more per session. More research is needed to confirm the long-term effectiveness, and cost, of OMT for low back pain.

Copyright © 2013 by Harvard University. All rights reserved. HHP/HMS content licensing handled by Belvoir Media Group.