With millions of Britons running regularly for health or fun, it’s no wonder that there’s so much interest in achieving the best performance. Even if you don’t run competitively, it’s always interesting to try and beat a personal best. Caffeine, once banned in top athletic circles, could give you just the extra bit of help you need.
Caffeine has become a regular part of everyday life – there’s a coffee shop on every street corner, and a wide range of blends and beans on every supermarket shelf. Most devoted coffee drinkers find the first cup of the day helps wake us up and get us ready for the day ahead, and the mild stimulant properties have been understood for centuries. It could be, though, that caffeine could have other benefits for runners. In his autobiography, champion middle and long distance runner Mo Farah says he usually drinks some coffee shortly before a race.
According to nutritionists, caffeine isn’t a source of energy in itself but can help you maintain a work level over a long distance, meaning Mo can keep on pushing when muscles are starting to tire. Researchers can’t agree on exactly how it works, but agree that it does. It’s possible that it may help support the central nervous system and reduce fatigue signals from the brain.
Like any other performance enhancer, if you’re using caffeine as part of a strict training routine, it’s best to limit the times that you take it to racedays and extra training sessions, as otherwise you could become dependent on the additional stimulation. For most of us, who run more for pleasure than competitions, it just means we can keep enjoying our daily cup of coffee with no guilt pangs that it’s having a negative effect on our running – it could be doing exactly the opposite.
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