Is coffee good for runners? The research is chock-full of results demonstrating that coffee is actually one of the best recovery foods for runners! Its nothing new that many runners rely on coffee for a quick jolt of lasting-energy, but coffee may also have an important role to play in enriching post run recovery as coffee was proven to drive out pain-triggering chronic inflammation! Thus, coffee may not only help you run longer, faster, with greater ease, it may also be healthful for your muscles, making them more resilient and viable for running.
Is Coffee Good For Runners?
The big challenge many runners face is how to increase training volume without getting injured. True, there are many strategically relevant approaches to prevent running-related injuries, but eating more anti-inflammatory foods is a reasonable advance to help protect your muscles from exercises-induced stress. This is where coffee comes into play!
Coffee may potentially bring down your chances of getting a muscle or soft tissue injury. How? Coffee was found to create buffers against inflammation, at the molecular level, helping to maximize muscle resilience.
New evidence has confirmed that coffee can really aid in better quality running recovery by punching through inflammation.
I have extrapolated some concrete examples of how coffee provides a continuous thrust for better health for runners! I just finished a book, called Body Kindness, by Rebecca Scritchfield, and the book provided invaluable scientific data that assessed the reliable capacity of coffee to work as a wide-scale antioxidant that protects your muscles and organs!
Coffee may reduce the risk of muscle damage through 3 key mechanisms:
- Coffee is incredibly rich in antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage, slowing the aging process, particularly, slowing age-related muscle atrophy.
- Coffee boosts circulation, ensuring adequate blood flow of nutrient-rich and oxygen-rich blood to your cells and organs to support optimal function.
- Coffee may keep your cells youthful by protecting the ends of your DNA. The ends of your DNA are capped with telomeres. These telomere caps typical shrink with age and it is well-documented that the shrinkage of the DNA’s telemores is strongly linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, mood disorders, and many other health conditions. Luckily, coffee may reduce the telemore’s tendency to shorten with age!
The best evidence of the positive effects of coffee on protecting your DNA and putting the brakes on telomere shrinkage came from a large-study in a Nurse Health Study.
- The study found that drinking 2 cups of coffee per day was associated with telomeres that were 29% – 36% longer than non-coffee drinkers.
The precise explanation as to how coffee works to help maintain longer telemore’s remains a big question mark to scientists for the moment. BUT, I must emphasize that the same kind of anti-oxidant capacity can be seen in non-caffeinated, too!
Wait! There’s more!
Not only does coffee energize your brain and revitalizes your cells/DNA, it may suppress hunger! According to Jennifer Stag, author of Unzip Your Genes, coffee can act as an appetite suppressant, so you don’t have to fuss with hunger or hitting the wall when you are running long distances. This is yet another mechanism of how coffee lets you get a better handle on your energy levels: by curbing appetite in a way that lets your mind perceive your stomach as being full. From a weight-loss perspective, coffee may make losing weight more effortless because you are more hunger –resistant.
Another incentive to use coffee as running fuel is that it may help you breath better. A study in the Primary Care Respiratory Journal, revealed that coffee opens up the airways, making oxygen more accessible.
You Can Use Coffee Topically!
In addition to drinking coffee, rubbing coffee on a sore muscle appears to pay off as well. Coffee can be applied topically to a sore muscle or soft tissue as doing so delivers a hefty dose of coffee’s anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory power, stimulates the flow of muscle-nourishing oxygen-rich blood, thereby helping sooth sore, tense muscles.
- According to research in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, rubbing coffee (of course when its cool enough) directly on the skin, ushers in a compound called caffeic acid which is a powerful anti-oxidant in coffee that diminishes inflammation.
From this, coffee may also suppress cancer growth factors in skin cells, which can really make a difference in helping reduce the sun damage responsible for skin cancer. Thus, using coffee topically allows its anti-inflammatory benefits to penetrate the skin, helping further speed up muscle recovery!
Take Home Message
So, is coffee good for runners? The jury is out: YES! With that kind of evidence at hand, it’s little doubt why so many runners use coffee as rocket fuel for running. But also remember, there is a direct correlation of the anti-oxidant and anti–inflammation activity in coffee that helps repair tissues, ensuring the muscles and soft tissues remain more injury-resistance and resilient to stress.
Ultimately, coffee is fairy dust that boosts the body’s naturally mechanisms of resilience, moving you toward energy renewal with its caffeine and energy-boosting nutrients. It helps repair and rebuid muscles by providing extensive cell-protecting anti-oxidants. It derails the odds of the hitting the wall by lengthening the feeling fullness, causing you to be less vulnerable to running out of energy. Collectively, this is how coffee directly influences good running performance.
On a personal note, one of my favorite coffees that really gets me juiced and amp-up for hours is Banned Coffee. I like it because it acts really quick since it is super-saturated with caffeine! If you like that instant eye-popping jolt of hard energy, you might want to give Banned Coffee a try! I also love that this coffee is very smooth and flavorful, not bitter like many coffees. Another reason I like it so much is that it doesn’t cause heartburn and its not hard on the stomach, either!
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.