Friday, December 16, 2011

Pre-Run Coffee. What's your take?

As I was enjoying my morning cuppa joe before heading out for my run I decided that I'd write a blog entry about it. I've mentioned on Facebook, Twitter, and DailyMile about my pre-run coffee and how it helps me, and I've had mixed reactions from those who follow my social media musings. So I figured it deserves some attention.

Coffee has a mixed reputation. It often seems like from moment to moment, the world view shifts on whether regularly consuming coffee is beneficial or harmful to one's health. I believe that with just about anything that is beneficial, it's only if it's consumed in moderation. When one goes over and above moderation, that's when it reaches the harmful category. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. So if you drink two small cups a day like me, then there's no harm. But those who have 4 or more - too much of a good thing. 
So is coffee good or bad before a run? I've heard many say that it's a bad idea because the caffeine is a diuretic. If you drink one or two cups of coffee before a run, you should drink one or two cups of water as well to balance it out and ensure you don't dehydrate. To me, that's way too much liquid before going out the door, and I despise, more than anything, having to stop running to go find a toilet. I think whether or not coffee is good or bad for you depends very much on who you are, what your body is used to, and what your specific needs are. There's no one truth that works for everyone.

Recent studies have indicated that coffee's diuretic effect is a mild one. And the diuretic effect depends on the amount of regular coffee consumption for any given person. For someone who doesn't drink it often, it will act as more of a diuretic; for someone like me who drinks coffee daily, it won't act as a diuretic any more than pure water would. Of course I forgot to bookmark this wonderful article I read recently that goes into detail on this, but here's another one that says similar things:

Does Coffee Increase Dehydration

I know that I feel so much better when I drink coffee before a run. I wouldn't say that I'm addicted to the caffeine and that's why as I can easily get by without coffee. But what I would say is that I certainly reap the benefits of drinking coffee. Here are some of the benefits, if you wish to do your own reading:

The Health Benefits of Coffee - Canadian Living

What does coffee do for me before a run? It warms me up and wakes me up in the morning. I don't think so much the caffeine is responsible for this, but more the bold taste and warmth. It helps me feel alert, have a jump in my step, and I just love the flavour - it goes so well with my bowl of oatmeal. I also appreciate that it contains many antioxidants, and helps protect my liver (which I have to be very conscious of).

And one more benefit....

Warning - somewhat graphic and un-lady-like material is coming up here....

Let's be honest, if we may, but coffee also has a bit of a laxative effect. Not that I lack fibre in my diet, considering I predominantly eat vegetarian food, but do I put this gently.... helps speed things along in the morning so I'm able to...ok, I'm a lady, I shouldn't be so explicit about this helps me go an extra time (or two) before heading out the door for my run :) As a result, I feel light and liberated and have absolutely no gastro-intestinal issues even on my longest runs. But of course, this works for me, and doesn't work for all. We certainly don't want the laxative effect to kick in during your's all about timing and one's personal tolerance for and reaction toward certain products :-)

Please don't take my advice as being gospel - we all have individual bodies and we need to do our own research, form our own opinions and test out what works for us.

I'd be happy to hear your own take on coffee, even if you disagree with me!


  1. I weaned myself off of coffee in March 2011 (after a 30 year addiction). Did it affect my training and running? Oh yes, it did - in a great & positive way. I didn't quit coffee to better my training, I quit for health reasons. My stomach was begging for me to quit.

    I think to each their own, but NOT drinking coffee has benefited me and my racing.

  2. Glad you've found what works for you :-) We all have to find that for ourselves. I agree, to each their own. Something might not be bad for one person, but really bad for another. There are many things out there that are good for most but really bad for my stomach. Good on you for following your body's cues.

    Thanks for your input. I appreciate it as I love your web site and your insight in it. A great resource.

  3. I usually do my running mid-morning since I work at night, and whether or not I have coffee before depends on how I'm feeling...if I need the kick, I drink the coffee (and I love the laxative effect, no lie), but if I'm already feeling kick ass I go for a run without and reward myself with the coffee upon my return. If I can be honest, coffee and running are the best parts of my morning. No better way to start a day!

  4. Yay, I'm not the only one openly writing about bodily functions online now! It's true and helpful so why lie. :) Coffee upon return from a run is nice too - helps relax tired / tense muscles. I couldn't agree more that the best mornings include both a run and a coffee.