It’s 8 a.m. You woke up early at 6 a.m. to get in your morning run and left plenty of time to get to work and get coffee along the way. You’ve put in weeks of training for your next big race, and your body is feeling tired. You need that extra Run Happy pick-me-up that only the delicious elixir of life that is coffee can provide. You get up to order from the barista, and this time you’ve thought out the perfect drink to continue fueling your training.
When it comes to any physical training, it’s important that you’re putting in the right work on your body combined with providing the right nutrition for refueling. For runners it’s all about figuring out what works best for you. In this post we talk about how coffee and milk combined can benefit you in training to keep the Run Happy spirit going!
Caffeine and the Bean
A Shot for the System
When we think coffee, we immediately think caffeine! It’s that shot of energy that get’s us excited about Mondays, it launches us over hump day with enough speed to skip Thursday, and it’s rallies us to get up and go for the Sunday long run. So, what is caffeine actually doing for us runners that benefit us? As runners, caffeine acts as a stimulus for the nervous system to enable the muscles to contract faster and more efficiently. In longer events, caffeine delays fatigue by reducing the athlete’s perception of effort. Specifically, it increases the concentration of endorphins during exercise to keep a positive mood state and a reduced perception of pain. Caffeine is also a known diuretic that increases urine production, but it doesn’t throw off your water-electrolyte balance. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages should still be consumed in moderation as it can exacerbate problems such as headaches or insomnia. Caffeine also has some addictive properties if consumed in excess. Don’t be afraid though! At the end of the day a cup of coffee a day is more A-okay. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns, though.
Beans for Better Running
Of course caffeine is the shining star when it comes to coffee, but let’s not forget our friend the bean and what that guy is doing for us! It’s important to highlight the No. 2 star, which helps with… well, going No. 2! First, it’s good to know that the coffee bean is where the caffeine is coming from, so technically the whole bean is the shining star. The reason why it is important to differentiate caffeine and the bean is because caffeine is not the reason coffee “get’s us going” in the morning. The unique properties of the coffee bean are what help trigger you having to go to the bathroom. If caffeine was the culprit then you’d get a similar experience when drinking caffeinated soda! As a runner, you know it’s the worst when nature calls in the middle of a run. It’s happened to a lot of us and it’s not pretty (or comfortable). Veteran runners who have experienced this know to purge their system by hitting the potty before hitting the pavement. One of the easiest ways to do this is by drinking that morning coffee. The chemical process that occurs in your body makes your stomach increase levels of two hormones, gastrin and cholecystokinin, which causes your intestines to make you have to use the bathroom. Utilizing coffee this way before your run is a sure way to not only give you a better run, but a happier run as well!
Milk: The Real MVP
Milk (The More You Know!): The milks that we will be looking at in this post are whole milk, skim milk, soymilk and almond milk. For reference here is a breakdown of the nutrition content of each of the milks for an 8-ounce serving.
|Type||Calories||Total Fat||Sat. Fat||Protein||Sugar||% Calcium||% Vitamin D|
|Whole||150||8 grams||5 grams||8 grams||12 grams||30||25|
|Skim||90||0 grams||0 grams||8 grams||12 grams||30||25|
|Soy*||110||4 grams||0.5 grams||7 grams||1 gram||30||30|
|Almond*||30||2.5 grams||0 grams||1 gram||0 grams||45||25|
* = Denotes Unsweetened version of this milk
Calories for the Cold
Picture yourself back in line at your favorite coffee spot. You know you have a long run coming in the next few days; your first 20-miler of the training session. It’s going to be a little colder than usual and you want this cup to count! One of the first things people think about when choosing their milk is calorie and fat content. As an athlete in training you need to be aware that fat can be your friend and is not always the bad guy! Having a good balance of fats, carbohydrates and proteins in your daily nutritional intake will give you the energy to perform during your workouts. Carbohydrates will be your fast burning energy and fats will be slow burning energy. For colder temperatures it may be more beneficial to choose the whole milk option over your other choices if you have a long run coming up.
Protein for Personal Bests!
Whew! 20-miler conquered! It’s time for a morning run coffee with the club. You know you want something to give you some energy and some protein to build your muscles stronger after the thrashing you just gave your legs. You’re with your friends Ian and Stefanie who are also getting drinks. You get your latte with whole milk, Ian gets his with skim milk, and Stefanie get’s soymilk. Who is going to get the most bang for their buck? Answer: You and Ian! But why? After a workout when milk enters the body it creates spikes in insulin that will transport sugar into the muscle, where it becomes glycogen. It also stimulates muscle protein repair and growth. Whole milk and skim milk have similar ratios of carbohydrates to proteins while soymilk lacks in providing quick carbohydrates to help stimulate protein repair. To help Stefanie get a little more out of her post-run beverage you can suggest that she upgrades her drink from a latte to a mocha with dark chocolate! That extra chocolate in the drink will add the carbohydrates that the soymilk is lacking.
Coffee Drinkers and Champions
So, you have all this great knowledge about coffee, but now what? Will you go out and break the marathon world record after drinking a cup of coffee? Maybe! The best thing you can do is figure out how being more selective about when you get coffee and how you take your coffee can benefit you and your training. Every person is different and will have unique needs when it comes to nutrition. Don’t start changing up the way you do things if you have a big goal coming up! Instead, look to experiment at the beginning of a training cycle to find out what works. Figure out what works best for you and you’ll figure out the perfect combinations to drink happy AND run happy!
Blog by Brooks New York Guru Bill Ling. All photos by Sarah Cavalier Photography.