Caffeine is a very important part of a lot of people’s lives. We seem to think we need caffeine to survive. We need it to keep us motivated, to help us get through the day, and most importantly, to keep us awake. But what about when we exercise? Can caffeine really help us get a better workout? And is it healthy to do this?
A 2014 study showed that caffeine can actually improve your workouts by increasing your energy, as well as making your workouts more fun. Jennifer DeWall, a nutritionist in West Des Moines, Iowa, says that while caffeine can help with athletic performance, it is important to make sure you are using it correctly.
“There is evidence that caffeine can improve athletic performance in low to moderate doses,” DeWall says. “This is why you see some sports nutrition gels and drinks enhanced with caffeine. However, too much caffeine in the blood is considered illegal by the NCAA and can cause muscle damage, so working with a sports dietitian on accurate intake and timing is important.”
There are a lot of caffeinated drinks out there, and each drink will have a different amount of caffeine in it. Black coffee generally has more than either tea or soda. The ingredients in these drinks however, are all very different, some less healthy than others.
“I would never tell anyone to drink soda—diet or regular—or energy drinks,” DeWall says. “So I would suggest getting your caffeine through coffee or tea.”
According to DeWall, there are a lot of negative stigmas behind caffeine that are wrong.
“If you are a healthy adult, drinking caffeine in the form of tea and coffee in moderation is not a bad thing,” DeWall explains. “It doesn’t dehydrate you to the degree that scientists once thought, and the caffeine itself does not affect bone density.”
Caffeine can be a very helpful part of our diet, as long as we are being smart about it and watching how much we consume. At least now you can feel good about it when you reach for that cup of coffee before your morning run, knowing that the caffeine in your drink can actually improve your exercise.