A lot of runners drink coffee before they hit the road to give them a boost of energy and improve performance, but a new study suggests that a cup of joe after your workout provides benefits as well. Research published in the journal Nutrients showed that drinking coffee after a hard workout improves muscle glycogen synthesis, so you can recover more effectively before your next run.
To perform the study, researchers had 11 trained male cyclists complete an exhausting, four-hour ride in the afternoon, and another the following morning. In between, the cyclists ate a low-carb dinner to prevent them from fully replenishing their carbohydrate stores between the two workouts. After the second workout, the participants were either given a drink of coffee, milk and sugar, or an equally-sugary drink without the coffee. To make sure they didn’t know the difference between the two drinks, both were served in opaque containers with dark straws and lids infused with coffee. They were also served the drinks in a room where coffee was openly brewing.
After the study, the cyclists who drank the coffee beverage saw their glycogen supply increase 57 per cent more than the cyclists who drank the beverage without coffee. This led the researchers to conclude that “the consumption of coffee with sweetened milk improved the muscle glycogen resynthesis during the four-hour recovery period after the exhaustive cycling exercise when compared to the consumption of sweetened milk.”
What does this mean for runners?
In other words, adding coffee to your post-workout beverage will help you replenish your carbohydrate stores more effectively, which will improve your rate of recovery between runs and workouts. The researchers note the importance of replenishing your carbohydrate stores during the early phase of post-workout recovery, which they say is between zero and four hours after you’re done because your rate of glycogen synthesis is higher during that time.