THE BENEFITS OF COFFEE !!!

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Any lifestyle blogger worth their weight in bitcoins will post the obligatory ‘latte art’ snap to their Instagram account every few weeks; some may even have a dedicated Pinterest board showing these delicious masterpieces! It’s a guaranteed feel-good picture, instantly conjuring the creamy, earthy comfort that goes along with the first sip… But here on FitnessOnToast, you might not expect to see such indulgences?! You’d be wrong! This post focusses on the benefits of coffee for your training regime, and some of the potential disbenefits you should be aware of too. All pictures shot at the beautifully glamorous Waldorf Astoria, where I stayed on my recent trip to New York!

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I recently stayed at the beautiful New York landmark, Waldorf Astoria on a blog trip to the city. At the time when it first opened on Park Avenue on October 1, 1931, it was both the tallest and largest hotel in the world. The hotel has seen iconic faces such as Marilyn Monroe reside in the Waldorf Astoria Signature Suite in 1955, and jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald perform in their ‘Starlight room’; that feel of old-school glamour still pervades every corridor.

Prior to my morning workout, I’d enjoy a coffee at their Peacock Alley breakfast bar each morning; as you’ll likely know, coffee is a powerful stimulant which is both effective and satisfying, but also highly addictive and potentially counterproductive. This post investigates it’s benefits and disbenefits

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1) WHAT IS COFFEE?

Coffee is in fact a seed (not a bean) plucked from within the ‘berry’ of the Coffea plant, which is grown, dried and roasted, and is thought to originate from the Oromo ancestors of 13th century East Africa, Ethiopia. The Finnish population supposedly are the most extreme coffee drinkers in the world, with a vast average of 5 cups a day, followed closely by almost every other Scandinavian country (we Swedes come in 6th place). Brazil produces nearly 44m sacks of the stuff every year just to satisfy our demand, and it’s one of the most traded agricultural commodities on the planet!

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2) WHAT DOES COFFEE DO?

Coffee tends to be associated with the wonderful superpowers of its caffeine, but the caffeine content varies greatly depending on the variety and cultivar of bean and indeed, the brand you buy – it’s worth discovering exactly how strong your daily coffee is. To give you that ‘wake up’ feeling, it essentially tweaks the brain’s chemistry by blocking the chemical adenosine which is associated with sleep, and simultaneously activates the brain’s ‘pleasure’ sensation. The these two feelings combined make it highly addictive! It also triggers the sympathetic nervous system into fight or flight mode, introducing some adrenaline into the bloodstream, making you feel a bit on-edge and alert, as well as causing the neurones to fire quicker, for more focussed mental activity!

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3) IS IT GOOD FOR YOU?

Research regularly shows that in moderation, coffee remains beneficial mainly because of it’s high levels of antioxidant compounds which help fight free radicals in the body. These compounds, called polyphenols, are found in many fruits and occur naturally in coffee. Research has also shown that modest consumption of coffee can improve vascular function, boost mood, relieve headaches, and may be disease-preventative, and may even reduce the risk of the likes of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

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4) DO I DRINK IT PRE-WORKOUT ?

It’s broadly considered to be beneficial to drink caffeine pre-workout – by triggering an acceleration in your metabolic rate, it can increase the pace at which you toast your fat supplies, rather than simply drawing upon glycogen stores alone to fuel your workout! The ‘fight or flight’ mode heightens focus and therefore should improve performance. I personally feel the caffeine gives me a bit of a natural pick-me-up too, which is perfect just before training; it sharpens my concentration and muscular performance, and overall feels like it lifts the effectiveness of my session by c.25%!

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5) THE DOWNSIDE RISKS

You might be worried about coffee, and you’d be in good company – my fellow countryman King Gustav III of Sweden (who sadly died 223 years ago) once ordered a study into whether or not it was dangerous, in one of our country’s first ever clinical trials! Today, we know that excessive consumption of coffee puts a lot of stress on your body and may have the opposite effect where fatigue hits your body shortly after finishing drinking your cuppa, as you’ve developed a tolerance; you find yourself reaching for another coffee to cope, thus entering a vicious circle and ultimately creating a dependency. Excessive coffee raises you cortisol levels sky high (stress hormone) which has been related to development and retention of abdominal fat. Another reason not to overdo it is that it can imbalance your serotonin levels (which regulates the mood and the sleep cycle), as well as cause the heart to beat faster, headaches (withdrawal related), and anxiety. As you may have read in my Sleep Post here, Dr Guy Meadows recommends caffeine should be avoided after 13:00. Finally, like the Italians, whenever you do drink coffee make sure you drink it with a large glass of water. Caffeine is detoxified by the liver and too much is very dehydrating so water consumption should be automatic. C. 450mg of caffeine is the recommended daily max limit, which equates to about 4 cups, but I’d argue no more than 2 to avoid developing dependency! Also, be aware that a regular skinny latte contains about 16g sugar (c.25% of your RDA), thanks to the milk content, so do keep that in mind!

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I WAS WEARING:

The spirit of New York took me, so I’m wearing head-to-toe Victoria’s Secret …
– The Hoodie: ‘New York hoodie’, sort of stating the obvious! Aside from that it’s super cosy and very girly. Plenty of cute ones here.
– The pants I’m wearing are perfect for yoga or warm-down alike
– Bra: The Player Victorias Secret Cross back
– The socks … I can’t even 😉
– The Necklace: My gorgeous custom Silver necklace was a fabulous gift from Jenny Present – thank you :)