Throughout the first 27 years of my life, if anyone had even mentioned the word coffee, my nose would scrunch.
When we were talking about Team Ice Cream, and I asked all of my support network which ice cream flavor was their favorite, when Drew said Coffee, I was disgusted.
How could coffee be your favorite flavor of ice cream!?
Way to ruin a good thing!
I always had a feeling deep down that I could actually grow to like coffee….especially with a flavored creamer, and a little part of me always felt left out for not drinking it. The options at a coffee shop are not exactly vast without coffee in it.
But Steve and I agreed that there was no point in drinking coffee just for the sake of it, and I was perfectly happy with my morning chai tea, which had a smaller caffeine buzz, and had become a ritual.
But then Inside Tracker came along.
I had my blood work with them the first time, and one of their recommendations was to drink coffee.
My mouth almost hit the floor…..wait! Isn’t coffee for people who are addicted and NEED it to get moving in the morning??
Why would you recommend someone get addicted to something?
I was a little skeptical, but then the little part of me that had always desired to start drinking it perked up.
When my friend Esther (Atkins) shared her elite story on my blog, she talked about how important coffee was in her pre race routine, and when I had interviewed one of the most respected experts in the running world, Alex Hutchinson, on the Run to the Top Podcast, he had also talked about how it was one of the only legal performance enhancing aids he would recommend.
I started to research, and actually, yes, lots of people use caffeine for performance, I remember reading a study (although can’t find it anywhere) that said 75% of Olympians use caffeine.
Did this have to be coffee?
But did it give me the excuse to “join the club?”
And I took that.
My first coffee ever in my 27 years of life (other than the odd sip reaffirming just how much I disliked it from time to time) was a mocha from Starbucks.
I had been told that this was my best chance of enjoying it at first, and I have to admit I felt like a little child going into the coffee shop and having absolutely no idea what any of these words meant or which to choose.
So I took my first sip, expecting it to taste like hot chocolate with a little taste of the coffee ice cream I had tried from time to time (when there were no other options).
Nope, I still do not like coffee!!
But I soldiered on, and tried the caramel macchiato the next time from a local coffee shop, Cup of Common Wealth, and I liked it.
I didn’t LOVE it, but I could enjoy it as best I could have at that point.
You would hope so with that much sugar, right?
Something had to change though, as we were not going to be spending $5 on a coffee every time, and besides, a caramel macchiato was not exactly going to sit well the morning of a race!!!
So I purchased a creme brûlée creamer (sorry Tawnee!) and freshly ground coffee as Inside Tracker nutritionist had told me that the antioxidants would be highest in fresh ground.
Want to know the embarrassing part?
At first I did not know I needed a machine to use it!
At home, my parents had always just used instant coffee, which you put into a cup and it dissolves, but I was in for a rude awakening when I realized this was not the case.
I purchased the cheapest coffee maker I could find, and thankfully knew enough to buy filters too.
Over time, with the creamer still at a high percentage, and on workout days suffering through without it (but using half a packet of NuNaturals Stevia instead), I noticed that I was moving from tolerating it to not minding to somewhat enjoying to looking forward to it.
Suddenly I was actually a little sad on the days where I was not drinking coffee.
Like I mentioned, we did not want me to get to the point where I needed it to function, so we kept it to workout days, long runs, and maybe 1-2 other days that I could “enjoy” it.
And here we are, a few months down the road, I actually like coffee, and enjoy it.
I rarely use creamer, just a black coffee with Stevia.
I do not feel a “buzz”. I do not even think I enjoy it so much for the waking up part of it, but I think it is more that it is a part of my routine, and of course I love that on occasions I can meet friends for a coffee and choose from a ginormous menu!
I have even purchased some decaf coffee to enjoy on other days!
One thing I will say though is that I do not have it past midday. I am still very sensitive to anything that will disrupt my sleep, and I know this definitely has the power to do that!
I have a whole new world of opportunities and flavors open to me. My eyes have been opened to the different styles, brands, methods, and tastes.
I am enjoying exploring this, and will continue to do so, but just making sure that the performance benefits are the priority here, so if I notice that it is not working as well, I will back off as much as I need to.
So if you were like me and avoiding coffee, here are the main two reasons you could consider it:
As Alex mentioned, caffeine not only helps your body to function a little better, especially in a morning race or workout, but it will help you mentally in those last few miles, and that is where I really notice the difference.
I notice that when I have had coffee, during my workouts I can control my thoughts a lot more, and feel clearer.
A big part of this is also the changes in diet I have made, but I can notice a difference on days I have and have not had coffee.
A word of caution though, caffeine is not going to be a great idea for intervals or fartlek workouts as your pace and heart rate is changing too much.
I do still use it on these days, but just make sure you give extra caution if you try this.
As I mentioned, the original reason I decided to start drinking coffee was because of the antioxidants that would improve my blood work numbers (hello, perfectionist!) based on my Inside Tracker results.
Some have even called coffee the worlds biggest source of antioxidants, but regardless of whether that is true or not, I was missing out on those antioxidants.
Would it make a difference?
Who knows, but it was worth a try, right?
Oh, and if you need more reasons, Runners Connect has 9 reasons to start taking caffeine, including that it will help with recovery as well!
Even non coffee drinkers know that there is an unpleasant side effect that will be in full swing when you first start taking coffee……..
Let’s just say you may need a bathroom nearby.
I noticed for the first few months I had to take the coffee 3 hours before I was going to run.
Did that take away some of the benefits as the caffeine buzz had already peaked?
Probably, but I was not willing to risk stomach issues during my workout.
Over time I noticed I could gradually bring that time forward, to the point to where I can have a coffee an hour before, go to the bathroom about 20 mins later, and be on my way with no issues.
If you are going to start drinking coffee for the first time, make sure you account for this, it is NOT worth the stomach upset during a workout!!!
My intuitive approach may not work here!
As you can see, I am now a full advocate for coffee.
I may explore other caffeine sources like Run Gum or a Caffeine pill in the future, but for now I am happy with my plan, and hope that if you are a coffee virgin like me, you will see that maybe it is worth a try.
And maybe, just maybe, you will actually learn to like it 🙂
Coffee drinker or not? How do you “take it”?
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