Coffee is more popular than it has ever been, with a bewildering array of ways to make and drink it. The CrossFit community seems to have embraced coffee culture with an even greater enthusiasm than most and our ‘Kool-Aid’ is rarely without a shot of ‘Joe’. CrossFit brands have embraced it (Caffeine & Kilos) and others have brought us their own blends and roasts (Intensus, Extreme Bean, Contact Coffee and The Barbell Coffee Company to name a selection). So what is it with CrossFitters and Coffee?
Read on for:
- The Science behind the “wonder drug”.
- How much you need to crush a WoD
- The best methods to guarantee a great cup of Coffee
For some, a cup of coffee may be a simple and effective pre-workout. Nothing more than the deliverer of a caffeine kick, but does caffeine really make you work out better?
It would seem so.
When we interview Masters, we ask them their favourite supplements. No-one has ever said “Coffee”, however, Ben Bergeron recently described caffeine as a “wonder drug” and one of the 4 supplements he recommends that all his athletes take to get the most out of their training (Fuelling the CrossFit® Athlete, 17m40s). He cites the benefits of delayed fatigue, increased focus and a lowering of the perceived rate of exertion. The dosage he recommends is 120-220mg of Caffeine.
I suspect most of us don’t see coffee as a ‘supplement’, but over at Examine.com they have reviewed the evidence and explain that caffeine can enhance cognition and improve power output (although, they reference a much higher dosage than Bergeron to get the benefits of improved power output, see below).
They explain that:
A caffeine dose of 400–600 mg is one of the most reliable and potent ways to temporarily increase strength through supplementation. People who seldom consume caffeine will typically experience improved power output during anaerobic exercise, including resistance training.
Caffeine can also play a role in recovery post-workout, whether you’re caffeine naïve or caffeine tolerant. Ingesting caffeine alongside carbohydrates can improve the rate of glycogen replenishment, which is particularly important if you work out very frequently or multiple times per day.
It would seem that caffeine has benefits both pre- and post-workout if taken effectively.
So, how do I get my dosage?
Caffeine content can vary greatly depending on the type of coffee beans, roasting (counter-intuitively, lighter roasts have more caffeine than darker roasts, although the darker roasts have a deeper flavor) and the type of coffee.
One shot of espresso is generally about 30–50 ml, and contains about 63 mg of caffeine (1).
A double shot of espresso therefore contains roughly 125 mg of caffeine (which is within the Bergeron recommended range).
However, some commercially brewed coffees can contain significantly more. A typical shot of Starbucks espresso contains 75mg (2) and one of their Venti Fresh Filter Coffees 400mg. A small recent study found espressos in Glasgow were stronger (one shot was found to contain 212mg) than those served in Spain and Italy!
Examine.com recommends that:
Caffeine dosages should be tailored to individuals. If you are new to caffeine supplements, start with a 100mg dose. Typically, 200mg of caffeine is used for fat-burning supplementation, while acute strength increases occur at higher doses, 500mg and above. Researchers tend to use a dosage range of 4-6mg/kg bodyweight.
Caution! You should, however, definitely exert caution if you are either not used to caffeine ingestion or if you currently have high blood pressure. Equally, if you have any cardiac impairments, you should consult your doctor prior to supplementing with caffeine.
Does it matter how I take it?
The short answer would be no. You can get the effect from caffeine in instant coffee or a can of Red Bull, but why would you stoop so low? Why not enjoy the wealth of flavours and aromas you get from freshly roasted and ground coffee? Intensus describe their pre-workout blend as having the “clean, distinct flavours of chocolate, caramel and hazelnut”. Wow. You could get your caffeine from a pill, but the CrossFit love affair with the bean isn’t about reducing coffee to a caffeine extract. It’s about the ritual of hitting the box with a freshly brewed, great tasting coffee in hand.
With this in mind, we talked to the team at Intensus about how to make the ideal pre-workout coffee. They start with a great quality blend (Intensus have partnered with North Star Coffee Roasters, who work with specialty coffee producers from all over the world). Their pre-workout coffee combines beans from Brazil, El Salvador and Sumatra to brew a smooth and full bodied coffee with an intense depth of flavour. If this appeals, they are finishing roasting their current beans and will be packing up and dispatching pre-orders this weekend.
The good news is, there’s also a -15% X-mas discount available on these pre-orders if you use the following link:
How best to make your pre-workout blend?
It really depends on the style of coffee you want in your cup! If you’re brewing at home, have some fun and experiment – French Press, Moka Pot, Filter… endless possibilities. We love the aeropress as a cheap, versatile and highly portable method that makes a great cup of coffee. North Star Coffee Roasters (suppliers to Intensus) have this great comparison of the French Press -v- Aeropress methods (including a ‘how-to’ for getting the best results from each).
The team at Intensus, also like the pour-over method saying, “For us there’s great importance in the meticulous nature of brewing a great coffee; weighing the beans and water to ensure the ration provides you with the highest quality brew. The following video provides good insight into a great pour over brewing step-by-step:
So, that’s all I need to know?
Not quite. The bad news is that drinking coffee everyday can lead to tolerance, meaning the effects of caffeine will be diminished. As Bergeron explains (click here), this is an ‘insurmountable’ tolerance, drinking more and more coffee does not help. A month-long break from caffeine (gulp!) will reduce tolerance. Again, if you want to read the science and decide whether you need to cycle your caffeine, head over to examine.com.