No. Coffee is not going to make you less fit than you currently are. Just to take away all knee jerk reactions and nervousness. Coffee is one of, if not the most, commonly consumed beverages in the world. It is an art for some, a social outlet for others, and a daily pick me up for many. There is an incredible amount variety when it comes to this delectable liquid, but no matter how you take your coffee, we can all agree that it is pretty dang awesome. One fantastic side effect of coffee, and the reason many drink it, is that it acts as a stimulant because of the caffeine content. For many it wakes us up in morning, and for people like me it gives us that little kick of energy to better attack our workout. While I never will suggest that someone shouldn’t drink coffee, we do need to be smart about when we consume our coffee as it can effect our ability to recover.
A stimulant is something that creates a hormonal response in which the consumer feels like they have more energy. Caffeinated coffee acts as a stimulant by kicking in the sympathetic nervous system and producing adrenaline which produces the “fight or flight” response. Thats why when you consume a cup of coffee you get a bit more warm, you feel more focused, and just feel more energized. The side effect of kicking in our sympathetic nervous system is that it produces cortisol, which is a stress hormone. While it does feel good to get the adrenaline flowing before a workout, and it has been shown to increase performance, it can be counterproductive for us when we are trying to get our bodies into recovery mode. When we are trying to recover we are trying to get our parasympathetic nervous system (referred to as the rest and digest system) to kick in. This is the system that acts opposite to the sympathetic nervous system, it handles our recovery process. This means that we do not want to consume caffeine after our workouts because this will kick in the sympathetic system and hinder our ability to get into a recovery state. As we all know recovery is truly the name of the game when it comes to any fitness program, especially CrossFit since it uses such high intensities on a frequent basis. If you are not recovering, then you are notable to reap all the benefits of the hard work you just put in. If you do not make an active effort to focus on your recovery you will most likely finding yourself plateauing and eventually burning out.
What this all this information means is that we want to make an effort to not consume caffeinated coffee after we workout. Check out this video for a little more background information on the subject. Now, I understand that some of you workout early in the morning and this might mean you workout before you take your first cup of coffee. My advice would be to try and drink coffee before you workout if you truly feel you need the caffeine on a day to day basis. Another alternative (this may ruffle some feathers) is to cut out caffeine. As much as this seems unrealistic, you can drink decaffeinated coffee (I know it does not taste as good) and still enjoy drinking a cup or two a day. I did this recently where I cut out caffeine completely but managed it by drinking decaf coffee and I found that I felt much better on a day to day basis. If you feel as if there is no way you can cut caffeinated coffee out of your life and you have to have it after your workout, try and cut down the amount of caffeine you consume when you drink your coffee. This will lower the spike in your cortisol levels so it doesn’t prevent you from getting into your recovery state for too long. You could try mixing half decaf and half caffeinated or drink a smaller amount of coffee.
As much emphasis as we place on workout performance, we need to place equal emphasis on how we recover. To put this in perspective, we spend 1-2 hours a day working out, and the other 22-23 hours is spent recovering. It is in that recovery time that will determine whether or not we can make improvements in our overall fitness and whether or not we can attack our next session with a full head of steam. In order to maximize our fitness potential we need to recover as hard as we work out! If you have any questions about how caffeine can effect your workout and recovery please feel free to ask. Also please also direct any complaints about cutting out caffeine towards me, all other coaches have not advised this method.