Drinking coffee has long been demonized as an unhealthy habit, but research shows this is unjustified. In fact, a couple cups of coffee per day can provide a variety of powerful health benefits, especially for fitness fanatics.
In this article, we’ll look at six of these benefits as well as how much coffee is too much.
1. Coffee is a great source of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are molecules that prevent cellular damage that can, over time, lead to the development of many types of disease and dysfunction.
Coffee’s antioxidants help fight the free radicals generated during training. Drinking coffee pre and post workout will help reduce these free radicals and speed up recovery from intense training.
2. Coffee is low in calories.
A typical eight-ounce cup of black coffee contains less than 5 calories - and no fat! But if you dress up your coffee with extras, whether at home or your favorite coffee shop, you will quickly add extra-unwanted calories.
3. Coffee may increase your life expectancy.
A study was published in 2012 wherein researchers analyzed the coffee consumption of over 400,000 people and, after adjusting for smoking and other potential confounders, found a significant association between coffee consumption and longevity.
Those who drank the most coffee generally lived longer than those who drank less or none, and the more they drank, the longer they lived.
To be specific, coffee drinkers had a significantly lower risk of dying from many different causes including heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, and even infections.
Consuming four to five cups of coffee per day was associated with a 12% reduction in risk of death for men and 16% in women, but drinking 6 or more cups per day provided no additional benefits. Just 1 cup per day was associated with a 5 to 6% reduction.
These associations were seen in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, so caffeine alone doesn’t account for the benefits.
It’s worth noting that this type of observational research can’t establish causation (we can’t definitively say it was the coffee causing these reductions in mortality), but it does bode well, and adds to the existing literature demonstrating similar effects.
4. Coffee improves physical performance.
Caffeine has more to offer us fitness fanatics than just the great energy boost.
It can improve strength, muscle endurance, anaerobic performance, and accelerate fat loss.
The mechanism by which caffeine aids weight loss is quite simple: it speeds up your body’s metabolic rate by increasing the amount of catecholomines in the blood, which are chemicals that mobilize fat stores to be burned for energy.
Given the effects of caffeine, it’s not surprising that coffee consumption has also been shown to improve exercise performance.
5. Coffee may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes afflicts about 300 million people worldwide. Research shows strong associations between coffee drinking and a reduced risk of developing this disease.
The likely reasons for these findings are numerous substances contained in coffee that have been shown to affect carbohydrate metabolism, such as caffeine, chlorogenic acid, quinides, and magnesium.
6. Coffee may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
Research shows that coffee may protect against liver and colorectal cancer, two of the most common types of fatal cancers.
This meta-analysis of nine cancer studies involving over 240,000 subjects found strong associations between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of liver cancer. Just 2 cups per day was associated with a 43% reduction in risk of developing the diseases.
This study involved the analysis of the diets and lifestyles of nearly 490,000 individuals and found that coffee drinkers were 15% less likely to develop colon and rectal cancers.
WARNING: Too Much Coffee Can Be Harmful!
Despite all of the benefits, drinking too much coffee can be harmful to your health.
This study, which tracked more than 43,000 people for an average of 17 years, found an increase in all-cause mortality in heavy coffee drinkers (32+ ounces per day). As it’s observational research, the actual mechanisms of why this could be were not explored, but here are two sensible rules of thumb for healthy coffee consumption:
1. Drink your coffee early in the day so it doesn’t interfere with your sleep. Too little sleep can cause a host of health issues including impaired endocrine and metabolic function and inflammatory responses.
2. Keep your coffee intake below four 8-ounce cups per day. Remember that many places sell 16, 20, 24 or even 28-ounce “cups” of coffee.
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