You may have seen the article in the NY Times this past Sunday regarding coffee as a performance enhancer in endurance events. It was a very interesting article - perhaps the most interesting comment was that studies show caffeine does not dehydrate runners (...although there is probably a study out there that shows that caffeine does dehydrate runners.) I normally drink coffee post-workout, but I hadn't given much thought to the actual performance enhancing aspects (other than the mental boost) of drinking a cup pre-workout.
Runner's World Daily featured a response to the article on Sunday, expressing incredulity over the fact that the NY Times article didn't mention anything about coffee's, ahem, shall we say "cleansing" abilities. I've never had to rely on coffee for this type of service, as I have a very nervous stomach. My sister Megan is the same way, and before our lacrosse games in high school, we practically needed to install a revolving door in our bathroom as we would get so worked up. This is probably too much information to share, but its pretty much a fact of life for runners! So, I normally am good to go in the morning sans coffee, but I decided to give it a try.
My main reason for not drinking it before heading to the gym in the morning is mainly due to time constraints. We use a french press for our coffee brewing, which is easy and only takes about 6 minutes total, but somehow the process always seems too cumbersome to complete at 5:15am. I had the bright idea on Tuesday evening to go ahead and brew up a french press of Starbucks Caffe Verona dark roast, ration out a few 8 oz servings, let the coffee cool down, and stick them in the fridge. I also planned out what I would eat the next morning, so that I would avoid the sick feeling you get when you have coffee on an empty stomach.
Wednesday morning at 5:10 my alarm went off and I hopped out of bed, eager to start my little experiment. I poured 80z of coffee into a small mug and heated it in the microwave as I prepared my whole wheat Thomas mini bagel w/ peanut butter and honey. I pulled the coffee out of the microwave and added a splash of skim milk. The whole process took about 5 minutes and was easy enough. I sat down to watch the local news (always very interesting and/or perplexing here in central KY) and eat my breakfast. The mini bagel went down easy, with Emma looming over my shoulder (she was standing on the top of the couch) hoping for a hand out. It was more difficult to get all the coffee down, even a measly 8 0z, but I was able to do it. I continued to get ready to leave, hoping to feel the familiar pangs of "ok, you should go to a bathroom now" that I have every morning but they never came. Uh oh...the coffee was now having the opposite effect! I stalled as long as I could, but eventually left for the gym just before 6:00am. I ran a hard and fast (9:05 pace, that's a good clip for me) 3 miles and felt great both during and afterward.
I tried the coffee and bagel again on Thursday before a 3.1 mile run - and felt great again. Maybe it's a placebo effect, or maybe the caffeine really is helping. I think I will stick with the coffee in small doses before workouts and races. Having the pre-brewed coffee on hand seemed to work really well, so I will probably continue with this method.
I actually have a pre-race ritual of drinking a 6.5 oz Starbucks Doubleshot before any race - from marathons down on to 3ks. My faithful readers will know that I briefly tangoed with an all out addiction to Doubleshots in June of 2007, but now that I have a healthy respect for the strong little brew, we seem to get along just fine.
I will be running the "Lions Run for Sight" 5k tomorrow morning in Lexington - I hope to finish in a sub 25 minute time. I will try to get a race report and pictures up this weekend. And yes, I'll be picking up a Doubleshot on my way home this afternoon!