Coffee not only tastes good but can have some health benefits too

After water, coffee is the most-consumed drink in the world.
After water, coffee is the most-consumed drink in the world. / SUR
  • Drinking a strong coffee before doing exercise increases the amount of fat we burn off, according to researchers at Granada university

Starting the day with a coffee is an unmissable morning ritual for millions of people. Just the aroma of freshly-made coffee has a stimulating effect, and a nice strong cup is, for many, the best way of keeping their energy up and their brain working efficiently during the day.

Coffee can make you feel good, but the effect that coffee consumption has on the cardiovascular system is another matter. This is something about which there are many theories and it has been the subject of a great deal of serious study, by coffee lovers and haters alike.

If we look at the benefits of coffee (after water, it is the most -consumed drink in the world), it now seems that a strong cup half an hour before taking exercise increases the burning of fat. This is according to a study by researchers at the University of Granada, who have also shown that if the exercise (whether it is running, swimming or cycling) is taken during the evening, the effects of the caffeine are more notable than they are during the morning.

The scientists at the university, who work in the Physiology department, have shown that if we ingest caffeine (about 3 mg/kg, which is the equivalent of a cup of strong coffee) half an hour before doing aerobic exercise, it considerably increases the amount of fat we burn off.

In their study, which was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the researchers wanted to see whether caffeine, one of the most-consumed ergogenic substances (which enhance muscle performance) in the world to improve sporting performance, really increases the oxidation or burning of fats during exercise. Despite the fact that it is very common for people to consume caffeine in the form of supplements, there is very little scientific evidence to support this.

"It is often recommended that we should take exercise in the morning because we will burn more fats that way. Nevertheless, this recommendation could lack a scientific basis, because we don't know whether this increase is due to the fact that the exercise is being taken in the morning, or whether it is just because someone hasn't eaten for a long period of time," explains the principal author of the research, Francisco José Amaro-Gahete, who works in the Physiology department at Granada university.

For this particular piece of research, 15 men (average age 32) took part. They had to complete a test exercise four times at seven-day intervals. The subjects ingested 3 mg / kg of coffee or a placebo at 8am and at 5pm, and they each completed the four tests in equal conditions but in a random order. Their circumstances prior to the exercise were strictly standardised: they fasted for the same number of hours, took the same amount and type of physical exercise and consumed the same stimulant substances. The scientists then calculated how much fat they burned off during the test exercises.

The highest amount of fat was burned in the evening

"The results of our study showed that the ingestion of caffeine 30 minutes before taking aerobic exercise increased the maximum oxidation of fats during the exercise, no matter what the time of day it was done," says Francisco J. Amaro.

However, it also confirmed the existence of a daily variation in the amount of fat which was burned off during the exercise, with higher results during the evening than during the morning, after the same number of hours with no food.

These results also show that caffeine increases the amount of fat which is burned off during exercise in the morning, in a similar way to that observed when exercise was taken in the evening with no caffeine consumed beforehand.

So, to sum up, the findings of this study suggest that if people want to burn off more fat during their physical exercise, the combination of drinking a cup of coffee in the evening and following it with moderate intensity aerobic exercise may be the way to do it.