Overweight runners guide to caffeine

Waking up in the morning to complete a training run can be the worst thing in the world if you’re not a morning person. How do you get out of that funk and make training runs more effective? Most people turn to some type of caffeine to get going in the morning before a run. Coffee, tea, energy drink, or shot, you pick your poison. Although caffeine may not be the poison you thought it was.

Caffeine benefits

Not only can caffeine be linked to many health benefits it is one of the most popular ergogenic aids out there because it just works. Caffeine can be more than just something to get you going in the morning. It has a number of internal effects that can help improve your running performance. It absorbs quickly in the intestinal tract and has a mild stimulant that affects multiple organ systems.

caffeine infographic

Caffeine and calorie burn

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system causing it to send signals that can help with energy, endurance, and calorie burn. It has been linked to an increase in the circulation of free fatty acids, which means that it’s glycogen sparing, flipping the switch from burning glycogen as energy to burning fat as energy. A recent study showed that athletes burned 15% more calories than those given a placebo.

Lower diabetes risk

It can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. In a Harvard study, participants who increased their coffee intake over a 4 year period had an 11% lower risk of the disease than those who did not. The same study found that drinking 4 or 5 cups of coffee a day can cut the risk of Parkinson’s disease in half.

Lower Alzheimer’s risk

Studies have shown that coffee drinkers have up to a 65% lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s.

Lower risk of heart disease and stroke

There are claims that it can increase blood pressure, which is true. That said, studies do not support the myth that caffeine raises the risk of heart disease. Some studies show that coffee drinkers are at a 20% lower risk of stroke.

Less exertion during exercise

And studies have shown it is effective in reducing any perceived exertion of energy through exercise. This means that intake before a run makes it feel like you’ve exerted yourself less than you actually did. Your time to exhaustion can be nearly 15 minutes longer with the intake of 300mg of caffeine one hour before your run.

Disclaimer: Before using caffeine as a precursor to your workouts, check with your doctor. Those runners with preexisting heart conditions, pregnant women, or those on certain medications should limit their caffeine intake, just as a precaution. Consuming too much can cause sleeplessness and/or jitters are likely to occur especially if you’re not used to it in your system. It all really boils down to the individual, your health, and your tolerance.

How much caffeine do I need?

Up to 400 mg appears to be the safest and healthy for adults according to the Mayo Clinic. More is not necessarily better, so keep in mind that benefits do not increase with higher dosages. Dosage amounts are based on weight, so you can use this site to determine your daily dose. Click here.

Where can I get my fix?

It seems like everything has caffeine in it. I’ve even seen it in shampoo. Not sure what that’s all about. From coffee to tea and energy drinks, you have plenty of ways to get your fix. The infographic will give you some of the most common sources and the amount of caffeine in them.

Sources for runners

Specifically, for runners, there are caffeine-infused gels, goo’s, blocks, and beans for a mid-run jolt. These products can have varying levels so be careful to read the label of your favorite flavor to see how much caffeine it might have. If you’re new to mid-run caffeine use but want to try it out, start with a smaller dose, 25mg dose and see how your body responds.

Be safe with caffeine

Caffeine has some great health benefits and can give runners a little pick me up before a long run. If used appropriately, it can take you running to the next level. Be safe, use it wisely, and before your next run caffeine may be just what you need to break through previous plateaus and achieve a new level of success.