After a late night or a sleepless one, you may just need a cup of coffee to get you going in the morning. Or, if you’re like me, you may just enjoy a cup every morning. And, if you’re like me, you may also add a little something to it for flavor. I’ve gone “all black coffee all the time” for different periods in my life. However, I always miss extra flavor, and have decided that for me personally, life’s too short to not flavor my coffee! I’m sure some will disagree, and I’m open to suggestions. But, it’s in this carpe diem spirit that we’ll look at a few whole-food, healthy options for coffee additions, and discuss the whole caffeine issue for both wellness and training.
Recipes of the Week: Flavorful Coffee, 3 Ways
#1: Brewed Cinnamon Coffee
- Ground cinnamon or cinnamon sticks broken into 1 inch pieces
Sprinkle ground cinnamon or place cinnamon sticks in your coffee grounds right before brewing. Or, for a more intense flavor, grind broken cinnamon sticks with coffee beans before placing in basket. It’ll add a subtle, wonderful cinnamon flavor to your cup o’ Joe!
#2: Whipped Coconut Milk Creamer
- 1 Can Coconut Milk (use Arroy-D or Native Forest canned coconut milk to avoid BPA in the cans, or make your own)
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1-2 tsp real Vanilla
Place full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. Once refrigerated, scoop out creams and reserve the remaining water for another use. Add ½ tsp cinnamon and 1-2 tsp real vanilla, if desired. Whip cream in a mixing bowl until thickened. Enjoy in coffee or as whipped cream.
#3: High Antioxidant Dark Chocolate Mocha (same as our Homemade Chocolate Syrup)
- 1 1/4 C organic honey
- 1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 C water
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- Dash of cinnamon (optional)
Make syrup (ahead of time): Place honey, cocoa, water, and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking to remove all lumps and mix thoroughly. Bring to a boil and allow to thicken, about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes. Stir in vanilla and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
Make mocha: Brew coffee as normal. Then, heat approximately ½ cup milk per cup of coffee. Add heated milk to brewed coffee and stir in ~1 Tbsp chocolate syrup. Mix well and enjoy!
With a few caveats, I think coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle. And for athletes, caffeine can be used effectively within Training Nutrition. For those of us who live in cold-weather states (although you wouldn’t know it right now with record-breaking heat), it serves to literally warm us up in the morning. And, across the country, it’s a wake-up call, morning ritual, and anticipated daily pleasure. Here’s how to keep it healthy.
First, coffee really should be enjoyed in moderation. To me, moderation means 1-2 cups per day (meaning 8 oz. cup, not 32 oz. super-mugs). While there is research to back up coffee’s potential benefits (reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia, reduced risk of gall stone disease, reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, improved cognitive performance, anti-diabetic properties, liver protection, possible cancer risk reduction, heart protection, reduced risk of constipation, antioxidant source, prevention of cavities, and gentle diuretic effects), there are also risks, especially to “heavy drinkers (more than 4 cups per day).” These health risks include ingestion of potentially carcinogenic substances (the chemicals are naturally occurring and huge amounts are carcinogenic to rodents), damage to the lining of gastrointestinal organs causing ulcers and gastritis, sleep disturbances, iron deficiency anemia (can reduce absorption of iron), coffee-dependence and withdrawal symptoms, and increased cardiovascular inflammation (with ingestion of large amounts).
What’s more, regular caffeine consumption, especially in large amounts can mess with your performance in training and racing.
The issue with being a heavy-drinking-coffee-dependent athlete is that you’ve trained your body to require a certain amount of caffeine in order to simply get to baseline. Let’s say that every day you drink 4 cups throughout the course of the morning. Then, you plan an early morning ride on a Saturday. If you can only get in 1-2 cups before a ride, you’ll start in a deficit as far as cell stimulation. This mostly affects your mental status, but it has a significant effect that trickles down to physical performance! Being below your baseline can cause an increased sense of effort (when you just feel like you’re draggin’), headaches, and fatigue. In this case, to get to your baseline, you’ll have to plan your rides around 4 cups of coffee, and you’ll also only have diminished benefits, if any, from caffeine ingested while riding. A 1-2 cup of coffee baseline is much more feasible before early rides.
What’s more, coffee acts as a natural laxative, both as being a warm liquid and from naturally occurring chemicals. While it mostly affects runners, this can spell trouble for any athlete. And for some, including myself, coffee consumption right before training makes me feel a little nauseous.
On the other hand, there are studies that show benefit to consuming caffeine while training and racing. These benefits come from amounts over baseline or in those who don’t routinely ingest it – so, again, only moderate daily intake is a key. With this in mind, caffeine can deliver a mental AND physical boost. Personally, I use caffeine on the bike and I help clients use it effectively for Training Nutrition on endurance-length rides (especially if there’s a big climb at the end of a long ride). If you’d like to try it, know that it takes ~15 minutes to hit your blood stream from the time you ingest it. And, if you still have a long way to go, you’ll likely have to continue to consume it in regular ~30-45 minute intervals in order to not “crash.”
Lastly, I am adamant that coffee and caffeine should NOT act as a band-aid for sleep deprivation (except maybe occasionally). Our bodies depend on healthy sleep-wake cycles, and this should be a priority in our lives. Too many times, our schedules are overflowing, and we need coffee because we don’t get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation goes beyond feeling tired…it affects our hormonal balance, metabolism, and overall well-being. Although I think of coffee as a nice way to start my day, it should not become a crutch for normal functioning. (This, coming for a mother with 3 kids 5 years and under…if you wanna talk sleep deprivation!)
What are your thoughts? To caffeinate or to not caffeinate? Black or flavored? Use it, or skip it in training? Or, live and train with this quote in mind: “I don’t have a problem with caffeine. I have a problem without caffeine.”
Give your body what it needs for great energy and health every day and during training with the right Foods, Drinks and Supplements. If you would like my help with it, I offer comprehensive plans as Instant Downloads and as Custom Clients starting at just $20. And, as a FuelRightBlog reader, get a further discount with coupon code: password-frblog username-reader. I’d love to work with you!
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