In an article that appeared on the Daily Beast, it was revealed that, at least in one study, 30 seconds of “high-intensity body-weight exercise” could yield the same mental boost as “a shot of caffeine.” Could you simply drop to the floor and do 10 pushups instead of resorting to your third cup of coffee on the day? Would the two actually yield the same mental stimulation? Or would you die of a heart attack after pushup number four?
The same article contained the results of a cognitive test following exercise versus the results of the same cognitive test following caffeine. The user scored 12% better on the test following exercise, compared to only 6% following caffeine. This author knows several friends whose daily routines consist of an hour of cardio first thing in the morning instead of a visit to Starbucks. Maybe running to Starbucks, shot gunning a mocha, and running back home would be the ideal way to start your day…
As the study in the Daily Beast explained, “Exercise and fitness are associated with better nourished portions of the brain that are responsible for higher-order thinking.” As far as how high to get your heart rate in order to supercede a cup of coffee, the Daily Beast suggests nearly doubling your heart rate “to at last 70% of the maximum beats per minute.”
Before we jump all over caffeine for being the death of us, the article noted that caffeine could boost short-term memory function: “On caffeine, my test for short-term memory was significantly higher on caffeine than exercise (26% vs. 16%). This jives with research that caffeine has a especially strong effect on sort-term memory.”
We joked about the most optimal form of a workout potentially being a combination of coffee and exercise, but apparently it’s widespread in the Olympics. According to a New York Times article from 2011, “More than two-thirds of about 20,680 Olympic athletes studied for a recent report had caffeine in their urine [when tested], with use highest among triathletes, cyclists, and rowers.” The drug essentially allows longer workouts.
Soccer players also seemed to benefit from the wonder drug known as caffeine, according to one study. The same New York Times report detailed, “Caffeine, while affecting muscles, seems also to have a striking effect on the central nervous system and on those parts of the brain involved in mood, alertness, and fine motor coordination during exercise.”
The problem, according to the Times, is the dosage of caffeine required to extract optimal performance isn’t known. You wouldn’t want Ronaldo to come crashing off his caffeine high at a critical moment in the game, would you? There’s also an issue of frequency. Would the user in the original example get a larger kick from caffeine if he ingested it less often? Would his workouts have less of an impact if they occurred more often?
A Men’s Fitness magazine article explained that coffee “can cause fat cells to be used as an energy source as opposed to glycogen. Also, the high amounts of caffeine in black coffee will increase your metabolism.” Therefore, drinking it before a workout could be beneficial. As we’ve seen, the drug improves your focus, notably in the short-term, and, according to the same source, those who drink coffee “experience less muscle pain during their workout than their non-caffeinated counterparts.”
Finally, if the drug could help you before a workout, how about after a workout? Does caffeine have any effects? According to Cosmopolitan, “Post-exercise caffeine can also help your muscles refuel if you pair it with a carb, like a banana.” Additionally, we know caffeine decreases muscle pain, which can be helpful during and after your workout.
Bring your coffee to the Y this week and let us know how it affects you, if at all!