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Study finds coffee may help athletes recover after working out


Cassie BendelFiled under: Health, Lifestyle by Cassie Bendel

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Bicylcing.com reports that a meal high in carbohydrates, plus six or more cups of coffee, can help athletes restore their body’s glycogen stores after a tough day of training

This week, bicycling.com reported that enjoying coffee the day after a strenuous workout may help athletes recover faster. The only bad part: you have to drink a lot of it to reap the full benefits.

In a study recently featured in the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers looked at the affects of glycogen on the bodies of cyclists taking part in the study. They found that drinking at least six cups of coffee with a carbohydrate-rich meal the day after an athletic event or workout helped the athletes’ bodies recover faster and more sufficiently regain glycogen stores.

Glycogen is a compound that provides short-term energy storage to your body’s cells. It’s primarily made by the liver and forms energy reserves that can quickly be used up by the body in times of great energy output. Since cycling takes so much energy out of the body, glycogen stores can be quickly depleted, leaving the athletes extremely fatigued and causing them to feel like they can’t move. To combat this, athletes will often “carbo load” before an event, effectively consuming starchy foods such as pasta and potatoes to help build up their body’s glycogen stores.

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Seven cyclists participated in the two-day study. On the first day, both groups followed a day of exhausting cycling with a meal low in carbohydrates meant to deplete their bodies’ glycogen stores. On the second day, they biked to exhaustion again, but this time they finished their workouts with either a drink high in carbohydrates or a caffeinated drink. The subjects were given eight grams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. The test was later repeated a second time with the opposite subjects consuming the type of beverage they hadn’t drank the previous time.

After four hours, the group that had consumed the caffeinated drinks had restored their glycogen levels to 65 percent or more, enabling their bodies to recover more rapidly than the other group. The researchers aren’t sure why glycogen plays such an important role in restoring energy levels, but they believe that the insulin produced by the subject’s bodies in response to the caffeine (which helps transport the glycogen to the muscles) may play an important role.

The researchers plan to continue their investigation by determining if such a high amount of caffeine is truly necessary to facilitate these kinds of post-workout recovery. Since most people can’t, or don’t want to, attempt to drink six cups of coffee after a workout, bicycling.com recommends their readers try to drink 600 milligrams of caffeine for every 165 pounds of body weight. That comes out to approximately two, medium-sized coffees.

The website warns, however, that since coffee contains minimal calories on its own, athletes will still need to follow up their coffee habit with a meal high in protein and good carbohydrates.

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