A Cup of Coffee May Curb Exercise Pain

Healthnotes Newswire (June 11, 2009)—“No pain, no pain” might be the new exercise mantra for people who start their routine with a cup of joe. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that caffeine consumed before vigorous exercise can help prevent accompanying muscle pain in men’s legs.

Pure discomfort is one reason people cite for not exercising more. Studies have shown that ingesting caffeine before a workout can help curb associated muscle pain in low caffeine consumers. The new trial compared the effect of caffeine on thigh muscle pain in college-age men who exercised regularly; some of the men were low caffeine consumers and others were frequent high consumers.

The caffeine connection

The men were given either capsules containing no caffeine (placebo) or about as much caffeine as that in three eight-ounce cups of coffee one hour before exercising. The exercise session consisted of 30 minutes of high-intensity cycling on a stationary bike; every five minutes during the workout time the men gave information about thigh pain intensity.

Caffeine significantly decreased thigh muscle pain during exercise in both low and high caffeine users. “The results of this experiment add to the body of evidence suggesting that caffeine ingestion influences muscle pain during exercise and provide novel evidence that caffeine is associated with a reduction in muscle pain in both habitual users and non-users of caffeine,” said the study’s authors, adding, “Further work should consider better defining and differentiating pain and effort when examining the effects of caffeine during exercise.”

Recent reports showed that caffeine can decrease blood flow to the heart during exercise, while others demonstrated an increase in blood supply to exercising muscle groups. In light of the new study, it is worth asking your doctor if a little coffee before your morning workout is right for you.

Tips for hard-working bodies

Drink a glass of tart cherry juice. Pure cherry juice has been shown to help alleviate post-exercise muscle pain.

Add amino acids to your routine. Branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), glutamine, arginine, and other amino acids can help muscles recover more quickly after exercise and limit muscle damage during a workout.

Take an Epsom salt soak. Use one quart of salt in a hot bath to soothe and relax tired muscles.

Give homeopathy a try. Arnica is a favorite for tired, bruised, or injured muscles. With no side effects, it is a medicine cabinet staple.

(Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2009;19:150–61)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, and now sees patients in East Greenwich and Wakefield. Inspired by her passion for healthful eating and her own young daughters, Dr. Beauchamp is currently writing a book about optimizing children’s health through better nutrition.

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