A Coffee Strategy
by tiffany ricci
To some, this is debatable, but to millions, coffee is the best part of waking up (nod to Folgers). While coffee is an undeniable part of our morning routine, we can also think of coffee as a strategic part of our health and performance. In addition to jumpstarting our days, coffee can positively impact our exercise, brain power, and overall disposition. So, grab yourself a cup of joe, settle in, and let’s have some coffee talk.
Coffee is the most widely consumed pharmacologically active beverage globally and the primary source of caffeine for several populations across the globe. It’s a good thing that coffee is ever present on our planet - it’s full of beneficial compounds. It is the number one source of antioxidants for several countries, including the United States. However, coffee’s chemical makeup makes it advantageous for our health, not just the caffeine. Let’s take a brief tour of how coffee positively impacts our health and well-being.
Nutrient profile: Coffee is not just “caffeinated bean water.” Coffee has a robust nutrient profile containing minerals such as magnesium which can help with glucose metabolism in the body. It also contains antioxidants, including hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols which help neutralize free radicals to prevent and slow oxidative stress in the body.
Improved Health: Coffee has long been a subject of much research, which concludes that habitual coffee drinkers have a lower risk and incidence of chronic diseases. Coffee has been linked to lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer. While much of the research is observational and not interventional, there are still strong correlations between those who regularly consume moderate amounts of coffee and a lower risk of several chronic diseases.
Neurological Benefits: Drinking coffee gets our “brain juices” flowing in the morning and provides additional mental benefits. Regular coffee drinkers experience a reduced risk of depression. Epidemiological studies show that caffeinated coffee also decreases the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Jumpstarting your mind in the morning with coffee can have long-lasting benefits for your mind later in life.
Of note, we each have our own unique response to coffee. Some people are more sensitive to the caffeine content and experience symptoms that do more harm than good. However, you can still reap many of these same benefits with either decaffeinated coffee or a diet high in plants (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans) which contain a plethora of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
The caffeine in coffee is rapidly absorbed into the blood and will peak 30 to 120 minutes after consumption. Caffeine levels start to drop off after 3-4 hours, so the effects of caffeine in your system have a long duration.
Since coffee can improve focus, concentration, and athletic performance - time your coffee to have the biggest impact when needed. Thirty minutes before your important presentation, test, or endurance race, have a cup or two of coffee to boost your caffeine.
Our bodies do get used to the effects of caffeine over time. To make the most of your caffeine boost, cut back on your regular coffee consumption before your big event, so your cells are more sensitive to the caffeine.
A coffee strategy focuses on optimal balance. To derive the health and performance benefits, avoid coffee intake, that is…
Moderate amounts of caffeine in coffee, around 50-300 mg, consistently provide the most benefits. This amount is equivalent to 1-4 cups of coffee, depending on the type of roast, preparation, and concentration of the brew. Higher amounts of caffeine can have adverse effects, including anxiety, restlessness, increased heart rate, GI distress, and jitteriness. Pregnant women can enjoy coffee during pregnancy, limiting the amount to 200mg of caffeine per day, about two cups.
While coffee can help you make your race PR or nail that presentation, coffee’s caffeine can also disrupt your sleep. Caffeine increases circulating epinephrine (adrenaline) which is a good thing when you’re looking to enhance performance. It’s not good if you’re trying to improve your shut-eye. For caffeinated coffee, the recommendations are to stop drinking it 10 hours before bedtime. Most of us need to stop drinking coffee as early as late morning and as late as lunchtime. You can still enjoy the flavor - switch to decaf after your morning cup or two of coffee.
Do you take coffee with your creamer? The extra calories, sugar, and fat from added cream, creamer, sweetener, and flavored syrups may offset the health benefits found in black coffee. Enjoy most of your coffee, either black or with small amounts of cream and sugar. If you regularly consume fancy coffee drinks from a coffee shop, limit the size to 8- or 12-oz and enjoy those occasionally instead of every day.
Check your roast. Lighter roasts tend to be more acidic than darker roasts. Though dark roasts tend to say “bold” on the packaging, they typically lend a smoother flavor. You can improve your cup of coffee nutritionally with these tips:
- Try a flavored roast instead of adding flavored syrups to your brew.
- Gradually decrease the amount of creamer you add to your coffee to get used to the coffee flavor.
- Switch from creamer to half-n-half and limit the sweetener you put in your cup.
- Experiment with different coffee preparation methods - try a French press, Moka pot, or percolator rather than a drip coffee maker.
For many, having our morning cup of coffee is a non-negotiable start to the day. The mundane practice brings us to life from our slumber and contributes significantly to our overall health and performance. When we’re strategic with our amount, timing, and preparation - we can reap great benefits and perhaps appreciate our morning ritual even more. Folgers was right coffee is the best part of waking up!