Does Caffeine Help You Cruise — or Crash?

    Written by By Donna Marlor, BSN, RD, CSSD

    I had just finished a 10k. Just finished. Face still red and flushed, sweat on my forehead, sensations heightened. My ears picked up a voice in the crowd calling for my attention: “What do you think about drinking coffee before a race?”

    coffee beansHuh? Still in a post-race endorphin-dazed state, I mumbled something about being a regular coffee drinker when the second question came. “Did you read about the study that said blood flow was reduced after drinking coffee?”

    Now my brain started to click on again. I started thinking fast. My questioner was a fellow runner, as well as a science teacher. It turned out I actually knew him, but hadn’t seen him for quite a while. A serious runner (and a fast one), he looked truly concerned. I could tell he had been contemplating how painful Monday mornings would be without coffee.

    “I just read this study published in the Journal of Cardiology,” he said. “Blood flow to the heart was reduced by 22 percent after drinking coffee.” By this time my brain had fully recovered and was going rapidly through the storehouse of exercise and caffeine files, coming up with mostly positive effects. But hmm, less blood means less oxygen. I was hearing his concern.

    “I really wouldn’t worry about it. Caffeine also affects you up here,” and I pointed to my head, with a comment about reduction in perceived effort.  “My experience — caffeine plus sugar — hard to beat in a marathon.” However, the 22-percent-reduction-in-blood-flow finding stuck. Could going java-less be like legal EPO?

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