Question: I am trying to build my endurance for a half marathon. Some runners have advised me to drink coffee before my run. However a few have advised me not to! Can you please let me know if I should drink coffee or not? If yes, how much and when?
Sudha Krishnamurthy, age 38 from Bangalore

Answer: During our interaction, I learned that you are preparing for your first half marathon and intend to do it in under 2hr 45min. You started running just 2 years back. At the onset, I must tell you that you are a motivation for many runners proving that age is just a number.

To understand coffee or caffeine consumption, let me tell you what it does. Caffeine simply stimulates our Central Nervous System(CNS), heart, muscles and increases blood pressure. It increases alertness and delays the signal from the brain having effects such as tiredness, fatigue, or lack of energy.
Having said so, it is clear that if coffee or a caffeine drink or gel is consumed about 45 to 60 minutes before your run or any form of workout, it will definitely contribute to delaying tiredness, increasing speed, and improve training outcomes. Caffeine reduces anaerobic exhaustion and improves the aerobic process.
However, when you start running your body diverts blood to muscles and slows down or shuts other processes including digestion. Hence many feel an upset stomach or uneasiness in the stomach. Thus one must consume coffee at least 45 to 60 minutes before the run for caffeine to reach the system. Also one can reduce the volume by drinking coffee shots or energy gel instead of a cup of coffee.
One can consume between 2 to 6 mg of caffeine per KG of body weight in a day. So if you weigh 48 kgs, you can consume between 100 to 280 mg of caffeine in a day. Remember a full cup of black coffee has about 80 to 100 mg of caffeine in it.
There are many who are not able to tolerate caffeine at all. Hence if you are in that category, you need not worry. Coffee is not the only way to boost energy and increase efficiency. There are more runners who run without caffeine than the ones who run after consuming caffeine.
One must never consume beyond recommended quantity as it can interfere with sleep, cause insomnia, hamper athletic performance, and increase acid reflux and IBS. Since caffeine’s half-life is about 5 hours, one should not consume it at least 5 to 7 hours before bedtime.

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