The One Thing Holding You Back From… (Excuses)

The One Thing Holding You Back From… (Excuses)

You want to lose weight.  You want to look and feel great all the time.  You want a profitable business/career.  You want to ditch the dieting forever.  Once you lose that weight you want to keep it off.  You want less stress and more energy.  

These are great things we all want.  Why is it so difficult then to lose that weight, or get off that dieting roller coaster, and achieve everything we want.  The answer most often lies in the excuses we tell ourselves.  

There are good reasons for not doing something we want or intend to do.  It might be an emergency or something of more importance that comes up and we have to postpone that thing we wanted/meant to do.  Any reason we give ourselves is real and valid at the time. 

What happens when we keep using these “reasons” day after day, month after month?  Sadly, these once valid reasons become the “good” excuses we have for putting off what we wanted, intended, or knew we should do.  The excuses we made were good, but they didn’t get us anywhere.

It’s safe to say all of us have used these 3 excuses at one time or another.

Excuse #1: “I Have No Time/I’m Too Busy.”

Time to get real on this excuse.  We all have 24 hours in a day…not more, not less.  People that perform at high levels of achievement don’t have any more time than the rest of us, and in fact it’s likely they are even busier.  Consider Richard Branson, Brendon Burchard, Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey…the list goes on.  What they do is make time for what is important to them, and yes their fitness and health are critical factors to their high performance.

Here are a few options for busting through the exercise time excuse:

  • Been off the exercise wagon a while?  Take 5-10 minutes each day (no more until this becomes so easy and a habit) and do something physical.  Walk, jog, do a few push-ups, crunches, stretches, etc. 
  • Exercise in the morning before your day truly becomes busy.
  • Literally schedule exercise into your day, just like you would a meeting.  If 15-minutes is all you have tomorrow, then 15-minutes it is.   

Excuse #2: “I’ve Tried [such and such] Before and It Didn’t Work.”

There are two things about this excuse.  One, maybe the diet or weight loss program you tried really didn’t work for you.  Fine, but did you try something else or just give up?  Second, maybe you had a failed attempt at losing weight or reaching whatever goal you had.  Did you get discouraged and just give up?

The biggest problem with this excuse is letting failure have its way.  Everyone fails at times.  High performers do.  The difference is they get back into the “game” quickly.

How about trying this:  Have a plan for when you do fail.  For example, 2 days in a row of skipping exercise is all I will allow myself; or if I eat poorly 1 day, the next day I’ll eat a healthy breakfast and dinner.

Excuse #3: “I Don’t Have Money To [join a gym, pay a personal trainer, buy a program].”

This excuse requires a certain amount of honesty.  Do you truly lack money to make even a small investment in your health and fitness?  Is losing weight and being fit really on the top of your list of importance?  How badly and how fast do you want to lose that weight, be stronger, more mobile…?

The key to ditching this excuse is being able to answer these questions.  Because what is important to us, we usually put our resources into and accomplish.  And while money is a legitimate concern, running or fast walking outside and doing bodyweight exercises at home are free.  Small purchases of a few key pieces of equipment to have at home can help you level up. 

Bottom Line…

Examine your reasons for skipping exercise and continuing to eat unhealthy.  Have these become excuses over time?  If so, take one excuse and make just one small change to be better.  Stick with that until it is so easy that you know you can make a second small change.  The road ahead to losing weight, feeling great and having the life you want then becomes that much easier.

Understanding the Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet, also known as the Caveman diet, has been around awhile and is still popular among some dieters and athletes.  But, is it a healthy diet and is it one that is good for you?  As with any diet, it’s important to understand what the diet is, the foods it includes, the foods it avoids, the benefits, and risks or concerns of the diet.  It’s even more important to determine if this diet is right for you by speaking with your doctor and a registered dietitian. 

What is the Paleo Diet?

The paleo diet is based on what cavemen and cavewomen are presumed to have eaten thousands of years ago.  Why eat like a caveman you ask?  The premise is that our bodies are genetically programmed to eat as our stone age ancestors did.  True or not, let’s take a look at what foods they had access to back then.

Since our stone age ancestors existed before modern agriculture became a thing, the foods they ate would have been ones they hunted and gathered for.  Wild animals, fish, and uncultivated plants, such as fruits, berries, eggs, and roots, rounded out the diet.  As such, the diet was high in protein and fiber, and low in fat.

If a food did not exist back then, it would not be an authentic paleo food item.  In modern times, we have many more cultivated healthy food choices available.  Additionally, most meats and plants are domesticated, thus making a true paleo diet difficult to follow.  What this means is, at best, a modified version of the paleo diet that is organic and gluten free would be one that a dieter could follow.  But that doesn’t alone make it good either.

Foods of the Paleo Diet

While there are many versions of the Paleo diet, with some stricter than others, below is a list that most paleo diets are made up of.

·  Grass-feed meats and poultry (versus corn fed) as the nutritional quality would be closer to what our stone age ancestors would have had available.

·  Wild-caught fish and seafood (salmon, haddock, trout, shellfish, shrimp, etc.)

·  Low carb vegetables (such as leafy greens, peppers, celery, asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers)

·  Pasture-raised eggs

·  Fruits (sometimes)

·  Tree nuts (only in moderation)

·  Raw cacao (high in polyphenol antioxidants)

·  Coconut milk

·  Organic green tea

·  Cold pressed avocado, coconut and olive oil

Foods not included in the Paleo Diet

·  Legumes

·  Grains

·  Starches (potatoes, corn, refined cereal, etc.)

·  Dairy

·  Alcohol

·  Sugar

·  Processed foods

·  Processed oils

Potential Benefits of a Paleo Diet

·  Fast weight loss

·  Improved blood markers (cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin)

·  Lower blood pressure

·  Reduced risk of chronic diseases

·  May benefit patients with type 2 diabetes

Potential Risks/Concerns of a Paleo Diet

·  Lack of energy (from carbohydrate restriction)

·  Vitamin and Mineral deficiencies (from legume and grain restriction)

·  Calcium deficiencies (from legume restriction)

·  Increased risk of chronic diseases (from legume and grain restriction)

·  Mental fatigue (from carbohydrate restriction)

·  Muscle loss (from carbohydrate restriction)

What’s The bottom line?

A well-formulated paleo diet may be beneficial for weight loss and improving overall nutritional health.  A major drawback may be the restriction of healthy legumes and grains in the diet, as well as other nutrient rich items like many fruits and vegetables.  Always seek the advice of a doctor and registered dietitian to determine if a paleo diet is good for you. 

In the long term, having a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and unprocessed foods, is easier to maintain and provides needed nutrients for optimal health.

The Home Gym Equipment Everyone Should Have

Can’t always make it to the gym?  Don’t have a gym membership?  Prefer working out at home?  If this is you, just having a few things on hand at home can help get and keep you in shape without having to give up any space to do it. Your home gym is simple (and cheap!) – elaborate is not necessary at all!

Resistance training is critical, whether you are trying to lose weight, get stronger, or get more toned.  Bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, squats and planks are great.  But, if you want to go beyond that, you need some basic equipment at home.  And, it doesn’t have to cost you lots of money or space in the house. 

Recommended Minimum Resistance Training Equipment

The following equipment will provide you with everything you need to do your resistance workouts at home:

  • A set of exercise bands – Exercise bands provide varying degrees of resistance from very light to very heavy.  They come in both looped style and long bands with handles.  Most basic exercises can be done using these, from overhead shoulder presses to strengthening those glutes.  While you may think of these as good for beginners, there are ones on the market that provide higher resistance for intermediate and advanced exercisers as well.
  • 3 sets of dumbbells – Three is all you need, really!  A set of light, medium and heavy weights.  And, that means what is light, medium, or heavy to you personally.  Or, if you prefer the style and option of having a “one size fits all,” you can purchase one set that is adjustable to varying weights.  These tend to be a bit bulkier but offer more options for adjusting the weight as you progress.  If a “one size fits all” doesn’t appeal, you can start by just buying 1-2 sets based on your current need to help get you started.
  • Stability Ball – Often missing from a person’s workout is balance and stability training.  Athletes know the importance of this to reduce chances of injury, and be able to stay on their feet!  The same holds for the rest of us, we all need good balance and core strength to reduce the risk of injury while exercising and going about our daily lives.  There are many exercises that can be conducted using the stability ball, from ball squats to even push-ups for more advanced exercisers.

If you are an avid at home exerciser, then adding one of our favorite pieces of equipment, the Bosu Ball(R), can be useful.  This is great for increasing the level of difficulty of a workout by further challenging balance and core stability. 

This equipment is enough to ditch the excuses and get to working out!

Maybe Grab That Dark Chocolate the Next Time

It’s been widely publicized that dark chocolate may have the health benefit of reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and inflammation.  With so many chocolate lovers out there, this was some great news.  Justifying eating this wonderful treat because it’s actually healthy for you!

But, are there buts to it like anything else?  Thus, deflating you yet again and steering you away from something delicious?  Maybe, maybe not.

What’s Behind the Chocolate Hype

Chocolate is derived from the cocoa bean, which is rich in antioxidant flavonoids.  Foods with antioxidant properties are wonderful to hear about.  Talk about guilt free foods! 

Antioxidant is a very broad term that refers to hundreds of substances.  The ones of most notoriety are Vitamins A, C, and E, beta-carotene, selenium, lutein, lycopene and polyphenols.  These are found in familiar foods such as berries, nuts, and beans.  Antioxidants neutralize free radicals.  Free radicals are both a natural byproduct of normal processes in our body’s cells, and from those environmental toxins we come into contact with such as tobacco smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet rays.  Our body’s cells naturally produce strong antioxidants, while the foods we eat supply others, such as those mentioned above.

Back to the Cocoa Bean

Remember, the cocoa bean was rich in flavonoids.  Flavonoids are a wonder of nature in that they are found only in plants, and help protect plants from those environmental toxins, fungi and microbes.  They also help the plant repair damage. 

Flavonoids have hit notoriety because of their possible medicinal use in fighting against certain types of cancers, atherosclerosis (build-up of plaque in the artery walls), and high cholesterol.  The main type of flavonoid in the cocoa bean are flavonols.  These flavonols contain antioxidant properties that may serve a role to improve blood flow and lower bad cholesterol (LDL).

Why Dark Chocolate over Milk Chocolate

Not all chocolate is created equally.  Cocoa is very pungent and bitter.  So, in order to make it taste good, most of the chocolates available on the U.S. grocery shelves are heavily processed.  The more heavily processed, the more flavonols are lost, and so it becomes just another unhealthy food to eat.

The silver lining is in the dark chocolate, and the darker the better.  It’s believed that more of the flavonols are retained during processing of dark chocolate than say, milk chocolate.  However, it all comes down to the manufacturing process, which we aren’t always privy to.  However, for now, dark chocolate appears to be the better health conscious choice.

So, when you feel you just have to treat yourself, a moderate amount of dark chocolate (one ounce) a few times a week may be a good choice.  This, along with those other flavonoid rich foods, such as berries, citrus fruits, and legumes, can round out your diet without the guilt.

5 All Time Worst Exercises – (What to Do Instead!)

Just as there is bad nutrition and good nutrition, unhealthy habits and healthy habits, there are bad exercises and beneficial exercises.  The worst exercises are not just bad, but can be dangerous. From watching workouts in gyms to videos online, we’ve seen our share of some of the worst exercises people can dream up.  Here, we’ve picked out some of our personal all-time worst exercises to avoid in order to reduce chances of injury and instead get the results you intended.

And the Losers Are…

1.  Sit-ups:  If these aren’t on the top of every fitness professional’s “never to perform” exercise list, they should be.  We’re not talking about proper abdominal crunches, but the old military style sit-ups where you bring your upper body completely off the floor towards your knees.  Besides doing little to nothing for your core, they push your curved spine against the floor which can cause injury to your back.  And, they work your hip flexors, which, frankly…why?  Most of our hip flexors are already overworked sitting in front of computers all day.

Do this instead…Plank.  Not only do these work your abdominals, but also your back and shoulders.  Proper form includes keeping your back flat, tucking the chin slightly and tightening your abs.

2.  Side Bends with Weights:  Proper side bends for stretching are great.  But, someone, somewhere, came up with this exercise with weights that supposedly was to strengthen the oblique muscles.  However, all this exercise does is put more stress on the low spine, which again can lead to injury.  Really want to work the obliques?

Do this instead…Wood Chopper.  This works both the oblique and transverse abdominal muscles—the ones that allow you to twist, swing a bat, golf club, etc.  This also has the added benefit of working your back and shoulders.  Proper form includes tightening your abs, avoiding arching your back, and using a weight that freely allows you to perform the exercise without stress on your shoulders.

3.  Lat Pull-downs Behind the Neck:  This is a common exercise seen in gyms anywhere, and carries with it a greater potential for injury to the spine, neck and rotator cuffs.  To avoid hitting your head with the bar, you have to extend your head forward.  This puts stress on your spine.  Additionally, the exercise forces your shoulders into an angle they aren’t really built for, which can lead to tearing your rotator cuffs. 

Do this instead…Lat Pull-Down to the Chest.  This is the correct form of the exercise.  Pull the bar down in front of you towards the chest.  Proper form includes keeping your feet flat on the floor and leaning slightly back.  Be sure when you release the bar doesn’t extend beyond your reach to avoid injury to the shoulders.

4.  Hip Abductor/Adductor Machine.  This piece of equipment appears in almost every gym.  You sit down and push your thighs in and out.  Sorry, but besides looking ridiculous, this works very few muscles and is a complete waste of precious exercise time.  It also puts stress on the spine, and unnecessarily tightens the IT (iliotibial) band which can lead to pain between the hip and knee.

Do this instead…Side Lunges.  Not only do these work the major muscles of the legs, but also the hip abductors and adductors due to the side to side movement.  Proper form includes keeping your spine straight, tightening your abs and keeping the bent knee from overshooting the toe.

5.  Hurdler’s Stretch.  We still see a lot of people doing this.  One leg is stretched in front and the other bent behind, which puts the bent knee in a very awkward position.  This puts a lot of stress on the knee and can cause pain and injury.

Do these instead…Basic hamstring, quad and hip flexor stretches.   These stretches will do everything the hurdler’s stretch was trying to do without the added risk of injury.  Proper form includes:  minimizing rounding your back in a hamstring stretch so as to avoid putting stress on the spine; avoiding overstretching the quad to where it causes pain; and whether seated or standing for a hip flexor stretch, avoid arching your back.

Most, if not all of these, were made popular during the early gym days.  They are tough, and they fit into the model of “no pain, no gain.”  However, they are not very effective, and worse, they are dangerous.  People have injured themselves doing these before.  Remember – pain does not equal gain, and often will slow down progress.  The key is to work at exercise in a smart and efficient way.  Challenge yourself, instead of hurting yourself.

You Can Have Your Cake and Eat it Too!

Yes, you heard me right.  I’m (Therese) giving you permission to eat that piece of cake, or chocolate, or cookie, or pizza, or, well, fried anything.  This probably sounds hypocritical since I’ve written about substituting such foods for healthier options.  And yeah, okay, it kind of does.  But, let me explain…Words Matter. 

What Happens When You’re Told Not to Do Something?  

Don’t, not, and no are some of the strongest words in any language.  Growing up, I’m sure most of us heard things like, “Don’t touch that,” “Don’t do that,” “This [whatever] is not for you,” “No, you can’t have that.”  When we hear the words don’t, not, and no, the brain focuses on that “thing” we aren’t supposed to touch, do, have, etc.  And it ends up being all we can think about.  

There’s a reason I’m telling this story. 

How many times have you been told to stay away from that metaphorical piece of cake?  The same thing happens that is described above.  When we are told NOT to eat “something,” that “something” is ALL we think about.  And that “something” is usually a food we crave for whatever reason, maybe associated with comfort, happy moments, or triggered by sight or smell. 

Now, I’m certainly not advocating going on a binge of eating junk food.  Neither am I saying to totally eliminate them from your diet so they never touch your lips again.  What I am saying is that you can allow for small or occasional indulgences, rather than completely denying yourself.  But, it requires some strategy so that 80 to 90 percent of the time you are eating a good, clean, healthy diet.

Strategies for Cheating (Cheat Meal and item…)

Here are a few cheating strategies so you keep your diet on track and avoid psychological guilt or feelings of failure while losing or maintaining weight.

  • Schedule a cheat meal.  Plan a favorite dinner of pizza, burger and fries, etc.  Refrain from doing this too frequently—1x/week max.  The more cheat meals that are eaten, the longer it can take to reach a weight loss goal.
  • Schedule a cheat day.  Plan only 1 day/month to eat whatever you like that day.  Avoid this strategy if it tends to cause a lingering return to unhealthy eating beyond the one day.  Also, after the cheat day be sure to eliminate those items from your kitchen.
  • Have one small “treat” during the day.  This could be one small scoop of ice cream after dinner, or a piece of chocolate midday, etc.  The key word here is small.  Additionally, only keep 1-2 of these items in your kitchen at a time and allow them to run out before another purchase.

The overall idea is to allow yourself to modestly indulge, which may help stick to an otherwise healthy diet.  The win here is that the cravings won’t control you anymore.  Rather, you control the cravings.  There is power in that!

TV & Junk Food: Are They Related?

I don’t know, maybe I was just burned out a bit from working too hard and needed a break, but yesterday was one of those lazy days for me.  I decided enough was enough and I was just going to relax for the day.  Now we all need those relaxation days to recharge.  But, on this particular day, I was glued to the TV.  And, for some reason, I took more notice of the many food commercials that we are bombarded with. 

It Made Me Wonder if TV Led to More Eating, and Junk Food in Particular.

To be completely transparent, some of what I have to say on this subject is based on my own experience, and some on research.  First, my own experience…

What I Know to Be True for Myself

I fight my food demons like I know a lot of others do.  Growing up, there were always sugary desserts and candies on hand.  While that’s another story in itself, suffice it to say, while we had to eat dinner at the table, dessert was served later in front of the TV.  I took this same practice into adulthood for many years.  Unconsciously, I associated relaxing in front of the TV with treat time.  During my own weight loss journey, it was one of the habits I became aware of that were contributing to my overweight.  (If you want to know what I did…I slowly began substituting for a healthier snack.

Back to Those TV Commercials.

To be fair, not all those food commercials I noticed yesterday promoted bad foods.  Some were certainly healthy.  But, on seeing them, even though I wasn’t hungry, it made me want to eat.  In sight, in mind, so to speak.  So, my natural tendency was to hit the kitchen and forage for food.  That meant extra calories I was consuming, healthy food or not.

What Some Research Says

In 2018, Cancer Research UK1 [United Kingdom], conducted a survey of teens between 11 and 19 years of age to assess if there was an association between TV streaming and ads on diets.  More specifically, on junk food and sugary drink consumption.  They discovered that teens who regularly streamed shows containing ads “were more than twice as likely (139%) to drink fizzy drinks compared to someone with low advert exposure from streaming TV, and 65% more likely to eat more ready meals than those who streamed less TV.”

In another study, researchers looked into whether eating while watching TV increased the number of calories consumed relative to eating with no TV2.  The participants were women.  Interestingly, everyone ate more with TV.  If the show was a favorite, or one they were familiar with, the food intake was even greater.

I always like to leave with a bottom line.  After working with clients and my own experience, one of the ways to combat TV and food intake is to be mindful of it.  The more mindful we are of what we are doing, the more we can move to modify it in a healthier way.

1Cancer Research UK. “Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180115184342.htm.

2Braude, L., & Stevenson, R. J., 2014. Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia. “Watching television while eating increases energy intake. Examining the mechanisms in female participants.” Appetite. Vol. 76, pp 9-16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.01.005.

Why Today’s Technology Is Messing With You

I don’t know about you, but growing up my mother was constantly telling me to “sit up straight,” or “stand up straight!”  Being a kid, I just assumed she thought I was purposely showing I didn’t care and was being lazy.  I mean why else was she always on me?  (That’s a rhetorical question! LOL.)

Granted, maybe we did not, nor our mothers, know at the time why having good posture was important, especially if we weren’t entering beauty pageants or impressing others with our great physique.  But, it turns out she actually might have had our backs on this one!

We’ve all heard it by now—sitting is the new smoking.  However, there is more to it than just being sedentary and out of shape leading to unwanted health problems.  In reality, something more is happening here.

Enter Today’s Technology

In today’s tech society, we spend countless hours staring down at our cell phones and peering forward at our computers.  We sit hunched over in cafes or walk through crowds with our heads down, oblivious to the heavy weight that puts on our neck and shoulders.  With time and age, we get more and more slumped over, developing what I like to call bird neck (head and neck extended forward like we are pecking at someone’s hand).

You probably thought that was simply age, right!?

Why Is This Bad…Besides the Way It Looks?

Our bodies adapt to the position(s) we constantly put it in.  This causes some muscles to be overactive and others underactive.  Because of this, we can more easily injure muscles that are weak (underactive), and feel tightness in other muscles (the overactive ones).  In the case we are talking about here, with time we begin experiencing pain in our neck, back, and shoulders.

Okay, So What Do I Do with This Information?

Besides taking more frequent breaks from staring at that computer and down at the cell phone, here are some simple exercises you can do to combat that rounded back and/or forward head (remember the bird neck).

Rounded back:

·  Bent over Rows to strengthen the back.  Yes, I said bent – but not in the slouched over sense!  Rather bent slightly forward from the hip.

·  Chest Stretch to loosen tight pectoral muscles pulling inward.

Forward head:

·  Head Retraction (keeping head level, tuck your chin which will draw head directly backwards).  You might not like the look of wrinkling under the chin, but that says you’re doing it right!

So, next time you find yourself scrolling too long through Facebook, or working too long at the computer, take a few minutes to get up and stretch out the chest and neck.  And add those back rows to your exercise routine (watching your head position).  You’ll make your mother, and your body, proud!

Are Carbs the Reason Behind Weight Gain?

The poor carbohydrate, it gets such a bad rap!  Now, before you roll your eyes, or remind me of all the stories about people losing weight by cutting out carbs, hear me out on the subject…

Can drastically cutting carbohydrates help to lose weight?  Sure, just like other diets, cutting out a bigger source of calories than you take in can mean successfully losing weight.  But are carbs the reason behind weight gain as so many have implied?  Not really, and here is why.

Wait…first I want to digress and take a look at the carbohydrate and why it is so important to our diet.  (For more on this, read our ebook on the 7 Myths About Weight Loss and the Top Proven Strategies to Overcome Them.)

The Mighty Carb

Put simply, when we consume carbohydrates our bodies break them down into glucose.   Glucose really has one major role and that is to supply energy for our body.  It is the body’s primary fuel for most of its cells.  It is highly important to the brain, red blood cells, nervous system, and for those pregnant – the fetus and placenta.  In fact, virtually the only fuel used by your brain is glucose! 

To be quite succinct, without enough carbs to make enough glucose, our energy levels wane, brain function slows, and our nervous system and ability to fight disease gets impaired.

But you’d rather burn more fat than carbs you say! 

Well, the fact is that when fat is burned for a source of energy, it needs a small amount of glucose to break it down.  So, you need carbs to make glucose to burn fat. 

There is a ton of misinformation out there that fat and protein can easily be used as a source of energy – directly, they cannot.  The ultimate fuel source is glucose (more specifically glycogen).  The process of converting fat and protein to glycogen is a costly process for your body, and degrades muscle in the process.  Finally, muscles are made of protein, but built by carbs (and resistance!)

Okay back to carbs being the cause of weight gain

Let’s be honest, carbs are not the bad ones here.  Good sources of carbs provide excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and dietary fiber that our body needs to stay healthy and lower the risk of disease.  High nutrient foods with carbs include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole Grains
  • Legumes

Even the bad carbs in small amounts aren’t necessarily the culprits of weight gain, though certainly they need to be limited.  You know what they are…candy, sugary desserts, sodas, etc.

Barring a medical problem, weight gain is an accumulation, over time, of eating too much…period.  The “wrong foods” make this worse as they are usually higher calorie.  Couple that with a sedentary lifestyle — not getting enough exercise/movement — and of course any food can cause issues.  So, let’s stop blaming carbs and be sure we are eating a healthy balanced diet and getting an adequate amount of exercise. 

All this said, carbohydrates should make up 45 to 65 percent of the total amount of calories you eat each day. These are essential to your diet!

Caffeine – Friend or Foe?

Many of us love that first cup of coffee or tea in the morning.  It smells good, gives us a boost to get the day going, wakes the brain, and may be associated with one of the most relaxing moments we have during the day.  And to go without it – well that just starts the day out wrong!  

Caffeine has an addictive effect.  But before thinking you are a drug addict, consuming low to moderate amounts of caffeine does not pose a problem for most healthy people.  However, as with any consumable, caffeine has both benefits and drawbacks, and may not be for everyone.  

Let’s take a look at what caffeine does in the body, the benefits it can have to improving performance, and when to use caution consuming it.

Why There Is an Almost Instant Boost

Caffeine is a stimulant.  It’s absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and is quickly metabolized by the liver.  Within 15 minutes caffeine begins circulating in the bloodstream, and within 45 minutes 99% percent of it is absorbed.  It easily crosses nerve and cell membranes and into the brain.  As a result, caffeine can make you feel more physically and mentally energized.

Typical caffeine sources

  • 8oz Coffee (95-200mg)
  • 1oz Espresso (40-75mg)
  • 12oz Cola (30-47mg)
  • 8oz Green Tea (24-40mg)
  • 8oz Black Tea (14-61mg)
  • 1oz Bittersweet Chocolate (25mg)

Caffeine and exercise performance

The use of caffeine in athletes has been shown to improve their performance by decreasing reaction time and lengthening time to exhaustion.1  Additionally, athletes consuming caffeine an hour before resistance training, researchers found that the athletes could perform more repetitions, and the muscle soreness that developed in the following days decreased (known as DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).2  The optimal amount of caffeine consumed was found to be between 3-6 mg per kg of body weight (pounds divided by 2.2).  So, what does this mean for everyone else?

Caffeine and the average exerciser – Benefits and Concerns

For us non-athletes, a bit of caffeine (1-2 cups of coffee for example) before working out may give us that boost of energy to increase aerobic exercise and resistance training repetitions.  Always go slow and steady when adding anything new.

For pregnant and nursing women, and for those with heart issues, stomach issues, high blood pressure, sleep problems, etc., caffeine beyond small amounts is not recommended and should be determined in consultation with a doctor.

1 Goldstein, E. R., Ziegenfuss, T., Kalman, D., Kreider, R., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C., & … Antonio, J. (2010). International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition71-15.

2 Hurley, C.F., Hatfield, D.L., Riebe, D.A. (2013) The effect of caffeine ingestion on delayed onset muscle soreness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 27(11)3101-3109.