Grabbing a coffee after a workout might seem like the smart thing to do when you're already fatigued from a strenous sweat session, but could your post-workout coffee be doing you more harm than good?
Here are 3 negative side effects of drinking coffee after a workout that might make you re-consider this habit:
1. Disrupts Your Body's Natural Recovery Process
Most people don't realize that muscle is really built outside of the gym. What this means is, while you are in the gym lifting weights, you are creating microscopic tears, or damage, to muscle fibers. After the workout is when those fibers rebuild and repair allowing for muscle growth. Additionally, during a workout, when your body is under mental and physical stress, the stress hormone, cortisol, is released. Throughout the workout, your cortisol levels remain elevated, and by the end of your workout, cortisol will be at its highest (hence why you get a boost of feel-good endorphins that lift your energy and mood). Following this peak, your levels come back down as you release other hormones which begin to repair the damage done to your muscle fibers. Consuming coffee in general increases cortisol production, so by drinking one post-workout, you end up working against your body's process of reducing this hormone and disrupting the recovery process. This can increase inflammation in the body and leave you, and your muscles, feeling unnecessarily sore and fatigued. Effective ways to improve recovery after a workout are stretching, foam rolling, massage therapy, fueling properly through sufficient protein intake (minimum 3-6oz depending on bio-individual needs), hydrating, and getting optimal rest.
2. Adrenal Dysfunction
Your adrenals are the gland in the body responsible for hormone production, blood sugar regulation, stress management, and metabolism, therefore, they have a huge impact on your body composition and weight. As mentioned above, exercise is considered a stressor to the body, thereby activating the adrenal glands to pump out cortisol. Add in caffeine after your cortisol levels are already high, and you add more fuel to the fire, causing your cortisol levels to skyrocket further. Additionally, with the amount of stressors we encounter as a society on a daily basis, majority of our cortisol levels are already too high to begin with, and managing stress is often not prioritized. Add this all together, and your adrenals end up overworked and burnt out. Overtime, if stress is not managed, your adrenals never calm down and instead, consistently pump out cortisol endlessly without relief. This can lead to adrenal dysfunction causing symptoms such as weight gain, difficultly losing weight, excess inflammation, trouble sleeping, anxiety, digestive issues, and more. Adrenal dysfunction is one common reason why people have trouble losing weight, and by simply reducing caffeine intake, especially post-workout, you can improve your adrenal health and optimize weight loss. Some other simple ways to support adrenal health and reduce cortisol naturally are by manging stress through self-care practices such as, deep breathing, breathing exercises, meditation, reading, massage, acupuncture, and nature walks.
3. Trouble Sleeping
Caffeine can impact not only your sleep, but also your body's natural healing process. The average half-life of caffeine (the time it takes to eliminate half the amount you drank from your body) is about 5 hours. As a result, consuming excess caffeine and caffeine later in the afternoon can cause trouble sleeping. The reason this impacts your body's ability to heal is because your body enters the parasympathetic, relaxed, state during sleep which is where all processes of healing take place. Since a good night's sleep is crucial for muscle recovery and overall well-being, avoiding coffee post-workout can help ensure that you get the restorative rest needed to optimize your fitness progress. To promote optimal sleep and recovery, avoid these habits and instead, limit caffeine consumption to 1-2 cups, ideally before noon. Additionally, focus on increasing water intake before, during, and after a workout to support better recovery. You can also add electrolytes such as pink himalayan or celtic sea salt (1 pinch for every 8oz) to your water for adequate absorption and hydration, or try a BCAA powder for improved muscle recovery and reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Lastly, aim to get 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night to help you ditch the excess caffeine, support recovery, increase energy, and help you perform better in the gym.
So, should you skip the starbucks run post-workout? The answer... if you're looking to support your fitness goals, improve recovery, promote weight loss, and optimize sleep, then yes! Often, it's the small changes that can yield big results, so something as simple as this might be extremely effective in helping you feel better in the long-run.
If you’re interested in receiving further guidance on how to improve your nutrition and lifestyle to help you achieve your health and fitness goals, inquire today! Click below to book a free consultation or learn more about my 12-week Nutritional Therapy program.
Jenn Horowitz, FNTP, CPT, CES, CECP is a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Emotion Code Practitioner who works to address the root cause of illness. Jenn is the founder of JTH Wellness, a holistic nutrition and wellness practice, specializing in helping people improve their relationship with food, optimize gut health, and regain confidence in their bodies through 1:1 fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle counseling. Jenn works to teach others how to live a balanced lifestyle that allows them to achieve their goals while enjoying life for results that last. Learn more about Jenn’s nutrition counseling services and schedule a free 15-minute discovery session by visiting her website, http://www.JTHwellness.com.