A pre-ride espresso or café stop latte is a key component of cycling culture, but recently the Swiss government caused uproar when they decreed that coffee wasn’t essential to life, so do we really need it?
Earlier this year, the Swiss government announced that it wants to put an end to its emergency stockpile of coffee after declaring that it is “not essential” for human survival, causing great consternation among tired workers everywhere…
“Coffee contains almost no calories and therefore does not contribute, from the physiological perspective, to safeguarding nutrition,” the Federal Office for National Economic Supply said, meaning that because it adds no energy to your diet it is not necessary for survival. While this may well be true, many of us depend on coffee’s stimulation to get us through the day, and we look forward to our ritual coffee stop as part of our bike rides.
With that being said, there are a number of scientific studies that suggests coffee does have some benefits for performance for cyclists and other sports people. In fact, the ergogenic benefits of caffeine are so well established that it has spent some time on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list! The legal limit was 12 microgram/ml measured in urine, equivalent to around eight cups of espresso. However, it was removed from the list in 2004 but it remains under review.
Caffeine, found in coffee, is a mild central nervous system stimulant. It can improve your alertness and concentration, and perk you up if you are feeling tired or lethargic. This is probably why so many of us head for the coffee machine before heading out for a ride! Once on our bikes it has the ability to help us exercise harder and for longer, and it even encourages our bodies to burn fat as fuel – win, win. A coffee towards the end of the ride can reduce feelings of pain and fatigue too. Other research into its health benefits has found a positive impact on your risk of developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
However, the downside to all this is that the more coffee you drink the more tolerant you get to the effects of caffeine. Before big events, physiologists recommend that you abstain from coffee for several weeks in order to get the maximum benefit from your cup of espresso on the day.
So to answer the question, no, coffee is not essential to cycling life. It has no calories to fuel our bodies and no essential nutrients, but a humble cup of Joe can help aid your cycling performance and provide other health benefits… and oh yeah, it also tastes great!
Long live the pre-ride espresso!