CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Stopping to smell the coffee and enjoy a cup of it before your morning workout might do more than just get your juices flowing. It might keep you going for reasons you haven't even considered.
As a former competitive cyclist, University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Robert Motl routinely met his teammates at a coffee shop to fuel up on caffeine prior to hitting the pavement on long-distance training rides.
"The notion was that caffeine was helping us train harder to push ourselves a little harder," he said.
The cyclists didn't know why it helped, they just knew it was effective.
"I think intuitively a lot of people are taking caffeine before a workout and they don't realize the actual benefit they're experiencing. That is, they're experiencing less pain during the workout," Motl said.
He said it's becoming increasingly common for athletes before competing to consume a variety of substances that include caffeine, motivated by "the notion that it will help you metabolize fat more readily."
"That research isn't actually very compelling," Motl said. "What's going on in my mind is people are doing it for that reason, but they actually take that substance that has caffeine and they can push themselves harder. It doesn't hurt as much."
The U. of I. professor has been investigating the relationship between caffeine and physical activity since taking a slight detour during his doctoral-student days, when his work initially was focused on exploring possible links between caffeine intake, spinal reflexes and physical activity.
Seven years later, with several studies considering the relationship between physical activity and caffeine behind him, Motl has a much better understanding of why that cuppa Joe he used to consume before distance training and competing enhanced his cycling ability.
Early in his research, he became aware that "caffeine wo
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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign