Caffeine stimulates your mind and body and gives you energy. It can also help you lose weight faster when you combine it with exercise. Exercise plus caffeine has long been considered a tried-and-true method for weight loss and enhanced athletic performance. But it can cause serious complications.
A couple of cups of coffee before exercising can deprive your heart of much-needed oxygen. This is dangerous, especially if you have heart disease or are in the mountains.
When you exercise, your heart's need for blood and oxygen increases. A recent Swiss study found that the amount of caffeine in two cups of coffee – 200 mg – slows down the increased blood flow needed from the added demands of exercise. Participants in this study had 22% less blood flow to their hearts after exercising and taking caffeine. There was no problem with blood flow when they were at rest.
This same response occurs at high altitudes. Those who were in a high-altitude chamber that simulated thin air at 15,000 feet had 39% less blood flow.
If you're healthy, you may not have any problems combining caffeine with exercise. But then, heart disease often goes unidentified and we don't always know we have a problem. Based on the results of this study, the researchers recommend that people do not drink coffee before physical exercise.
Remember that the amount of caffeine used in this study was the amount you'd find in two cups of coffee. If you believe you have a healthy heart, drinking one cup should be fine. And if you're using a healthier beverage like green tea, you'll get a little boost of energy without the same risks. One cup of green tea contains around 30 mg of caffeine. If you prefer black tea, you're getting 40 mg – less than half the amount you'll find in a single cup of coffee.
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Dr. Janet Zand
Namdar, M. Journ of Amer College of Cardiology, January 17, 2006.