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Coffee as a Supplement
No, we’re not pitchmen for Starbucks, but if you’re looking for an energy boost in the gym, coffee can be a tempting workout partner. “There are numerous performance benefits [to caffeine],” says Eric Sternlicht, Ph.D., a nutrition and exercise consultant (www.simplyfit.com) and the author of Fuel Up (due out in January 2002). “It increases the strength of muscle contractions, both with your skeletal muscle and your heart muscle. It increases endurance, and it increases the relative contribution of fat [to energy expenditure], so you’ll burn more fat relative to carbohydrates at any exercise intensity.”
But here’s the catch: The effect diminishes over time. “Many people think, ‘Oh, wow, it’s great. I’m going to burn more fat by drinking a cup of coffee, or two or three,” says Sternlicht. “You build a tolerance quite quickly. Within a few weeks, you’re not getting that same benefit.” If you are a regular coffee drinker, you can counteract this by abstaining from drinking coffee for two weeks—a good idea if you have an upcoming competition or even a long car ride. A six to eight ounce cup of coffee has 50 to 250 milligrams of caffeine, depending on how strongly it’s brewed.