Regular practice has prepared you to take on the next strenuous challenge, which may be a bicycle race, mountain bike cross-country trek, 10K mini-marathon or a hike in the hills with some challenging rock climbing ahead. On some days, your muscles seem willing to overpower the course and you feel ready to take on challenges that are more difficult. Then, inexplicably, you struggle to perform a routine that you have performed with ease a hundred times before. About halfway through the course, you feel your energy drain away, your muscles begin to strain and the finish line seems too far away. Climbing up that rock face seemed easy, but the way down is proving to be problematic. Losing your grip now can have catastrophic results.
Of course, many factors contribute to your performance on any given day, beyond general conditioning. Adequate sleep the night before, diet, hydration and rest are just a few of the important influences on your strength and endurance. If you have experienced the unexpected drain of muscle power, doing one simple thing may help to provide the boost of energy and strength just when you need it. You may just go a little faster, and your strength may last a little longer because of it.
About one hour before you start the race or other strenuous activity, drink a large cup of caffeinated coffee. Regardless of whether the exercise is a brief sprint up a hill, or a long hike or cross-country mountain biking event, the caffeine in coffee helps you to improve your strength and endurance. Caffeine boosts your brain’s performance as well, so you will be less likely to lose concentration during the race, keeping your feet firmly placed on the road, your tires on the track or your fingers gripped onto the right crack in the rock face.
The polyphenols in coffee are powerful antioxidants that help to support brain health and lower blood pressure. These antioxidants, combined with the caffeine, also help your body to recover from exercise more quickly by accelerating the recovery of glycogen levels. Athletes often drink carbohydrates and protein drinks after races to speed recovery. Adding a cup of coffee into the mix works even better.
It is possible to overdo the caffeine intake, so it is important to limit yourself to one large cup before the race. A caffeine overdose can make you light-headed and dizzy, create a feeling of anxiety and even produce heart palpitations. All of these are conditions that you want to avoid during any strenuous physical activity and a race in particular. In addition, the extra caffeine won’t do anything to further boost your performance.
The timing of the caffeine intake is important as the peak benefits in performance are experienced about an hour or two after you drink the coffee. The combination of polyphenols and caffeine in coffee seems to work better than pure caffeine supplements so leave those behind and brew your up your own natural booster. Enjoy that morning cup and hit the road faster and stronger.