November 2, 2020

Can You Use Coffee As A Fitness Supplement?


Sports drinks and supplements are incredibly popular among athletes and fitness professionals, but in recent years, more and more products have emerged citing the fitness and health benefits of coffee. 

With a steadily increasing focus on fitness and wellbeing, some consumers are moving away from sugars and processed compounds in favour of “clean” and natural ingredients to support them when they exercise. 

These products include coffee prepared in a variety of different ways, including roasted and ground, instant, and even blended with other substances to create a more complex supplement.

To learn more about this market segment, I spoke to some experts. Read on to find out what they said.

You may also like Finding The Right Coffee To Suit Your Needs

A book and a cup of coffee, supplement

What Do We Know About Coffee’s Impact On The Body?

As we know, coffee contains caffeine: a stimulant which reduces fatigue and boosts alertness and wakefulness in those who ingest it.

We also know that coffee naturally contains antioxidants and even has potential as a dieting aid. Studies also show that regularly drinking good-quality coffee can even lead to a lower risk of dementia, cancer, and even Type 2 diabetes.

However, excessive coffee consumption does have side effects. These include caffeine headaches, anxiety, and physiological dependency. Furthermore, the acidic compounds released by poorly roasted or processed coffee can irritate the digestive system.

Coffee’s impact on human health has been the subject of numerous debates in recent years, including a landmark ruling in a legal case between the National Coffee Association and the state of California

Today, the general consensus is that drinking good quality coffee that has been roasted properly is healthy, and its low natural sugar and calorie content make it a good choice for those with dietary requirements. 

Person drinking coffee during cycling as a supplement

Using Caffeine As A Fitness Supplement

Caffeine has been used as a component in various fitness and supplements for some time, often for its ability to improve wakefulness and alertness. When exercising or playing sports, the “burst of energy” that caffeine provides can be useful. Coffee even has its own unique relationship with some sports or athletic activities, namely cycling.

This relationship between coffee and fitness has led to some companies rebranding their coffee products to appeal to the wider supplement market. Murilo Allan is the marketing manager of Caffeine Army, a Brazilian company that produces a fitness supplement called SuperCoffee. 

SuperCoffee blends several other compounds with an organic coffee from Brazil’s Chapada da Diamantina region. The product claims to boost metabolic function by as much as 11%, as well as improving fat loss and concentration. 

Murilo says: “Coffee is the main ingredient in our product formula due to its ergogenic (performance-enhancing) capabilities, and its ability to stimulate wakefulness, attention and focus.”

Bruno Lima is the founder and CEO of Caffeine Army. He adds to what Murilo says: “As all the ingredients we use are natural, they promote a boost in physical and cognitive performance without causing anxiety or excess energy.”

In many performance-enhancing supplements, caffeine is also commonly combined with nootropics. Nootropics are a wide range of supplements, drugs, and other substances that claim to improve cognitive function. They have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, with total sales surpassing US $1 billion in 2015. Examples include Alpha-GPC, DMAE, taurine, and L-theanine. 

Coffee As A Supplement: What Are The Effects?

Eneko Aranaz is a boxer, personal trainer, and the part-owner of San Jorge Coffee Roasters in Aragon, Spain. He’s worked in specialty coffee for five years and uses coffee as a training supplement.

Eneko says there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to using caffeine to improve your performance. “It depends on personal tolerance,” he says. “It has to be a matter of trial and error to find a dose that benefits you.”

He adds that caffeine won’t affect you in the same way from one day to the next, pointing out that there are many different variables which affect how your body will respond to caffeine. Your stress levels, how hydrated you are, and what you’ve eaten are just a handful of these factors.

Once ingested, caffeine takes 40 to 50 minutes to start affecting the human body. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, and others may well feel its impact immediately. This happens because of a psychological effect that occurs when the tongue’s receptors send signals to the brain.

Caffeine reaches its metabolic peak in the body roughly two to three hours after ingestion, and it will remain in your body for approximately four hours after consumption.

Eneko says that when using caffeine to help you exercise or compete in sports, you should alter how and when you consume coffee in accordance with the activity you have planned.

For example, as hiking requires long-term energy, consuming coffee throughout a hike will provide you bursts of energy and alertness in a sustainable way.

Eneko adds that when he is boxing and needs to keep his weight at a certain level, he increases his coffee intake.  “[By drinking more coffee], I can speed up my body and fight fatigue throughout a week of intense training,” he explains.

He adds that he often consumes cold brew before challenging physical activities. This is because cold brew is generally more concentrated than regular brewed coffee, and as a result often contains more caffeine.

What’s The Future For Coffee & Supplements?

The global nootropics market is expected to reach US $5.32 billion by 2026, showing that demand is only increasing. On the whole, consumers are more invested in exercise and wellbeing than they have ever been. The increasing availability of supplements, multivitamins, and other similar substances only makes this lifestyle choice easier.

As the world recovers from the effects of Covid-19, this general trend for health and wellness seems only set to continue. Murilo says that the demand for Caffeine Army’s products “have been huge” throughout the pandemic as more people look to stay healthy and fit.

Finally, even though the nootropics market is well established, some concerns about their effects and how they are marketed may point to future opportunities for coffee and coffee-based products.

In 2019, both the US Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission issued warnings about advertising fraud and marketing scams in relation to many nootropic products. Coffee may be a fitting alternative for consumers who want a naturally-occurring stimulant to help them when training or exercising.

Given that caffeine is known to improve wakefulness and alertness, it could prove to be a natural alternative to some nootropics. It has been used by athletes across the world for decades, if not centuries. 

Beyond this, the unique relationship between coffee and sports (namely cycling) could point to a number of emerging new market opportunities for coffee companies.

So, next time you’re going out for a run or heading to the gym, consider brewing some coffee before you go. It could give you that edge you’ve been looking for.

Enjoyed this? Then read “100% Arabica”: What Does It Mean?

Photo credits: Caffeine Army, Eneko Aranaz, San Jorge Coffee Roasters

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