As I sit down to write this post, it is 1pm and I have just popped the top on an Orange Rockstar to help fend off any risk of experiencing the dreaded post lunch time drowsiness that so often effects the American office worker. That being said, I have a confession to make. I kicked off the day with a Extra Strength 5 Hour Energy shot. I almost made it the five hours before opening my Rockstar. It is safe to say I have a problem. The image below pretty much sums up my relationship to caffeine right now. If a doctor offered to hook up a caffeine iv that I could turn off and on at will, I wouldn’t hesitate to say, “hell yes! In fact, why don’t you give me two.” With that preface, let’s talk caffeine.
I have been surrounded by other runners for 20 years now and everyone of them has their own preferences on how they use caffeine in conjunction with their running. Some runners are strictly against the use of caffeine. There are many reasons ranging from religious beliefs to not wanting to raise their heart rate too much before they even start running. There was a time when I didn’t use caffeine to enhance my runs; not because of any religious choice or because I didn’t want to prematurely raise my heart rate, but because energy drinks tasted like excrement. What led me to my current state of caffeine dependency? It all started with one workout.
One Saturday morning about six or seven years ago, my brother and I headed to the gym together to lift some weights before I went on my run. We stopped at the gym pro shop on the way in and my brother purchased two bottles of water and a Redline energy drink. My brother told me to drink about half of the bottle of water and proceeded to do the same with his water. He then took my bottle of water back and refilled the empty half with half of his Redline and filled his water bottle with the other half. I was instructed to sip on the water as we went through our hour of lifting weights. My brother is an amazing body builder and he has always been my trainer when it comes to lifting weights. I did as I was told and the results were amazing. Usually by the time I complete a weight lifting session with my brother, I am completely wiped out and my run is a struggle to get through. On that fateful day my energy increased during the workout and by the time we were done, I was chomping at the bit to hit the road. I had an eight my run planned and ended up going about 14 miles because of the surge of energy I was experiencing. After that workout, I eased my way into the world of using caffeine to help enhance my runs. The drinks themselves still tasted like rat poison, but I loved the kick it gave me.
I started out only using caffeine to help fuel my Saturday long runs. By keeping my caffeine intake limited to one energy drink a week, my tolerance for the effects that it provided never increased. I followed this one drink a week pattern for about three years until the fateful day I was introduced to Rockstar Lemonade. Ever since the day I took my first sip of that delectable beverage, I have been on a downhill spiral when it comes to my caffeine consumption and tolerance. One energy drink a week has become at least one energy drink a day. The fact that my work provides Rockstars for free has only helped exacerbate the habit. I still use caffeine to enhance my running but its effects have diminished to the point of being almost indecipherable during most of my workouts; so indecipherable that I am seriously considering dropping all caffeine intake for a year to recalibrate my system. That decision will be made at an undetermined future date and will be written about in a future post.
I have a few questions about caffeine consumption for all of you runners out there. Do you use any caffeine to fuel your runs? To get you out of bed and to the gym everyday? Do you notice positive effects or have you noticed negative effects? There are plenty of articles that support using caffeine to enhance your running, but there are just as many articles that say it is bad for your fitness. I am curious to know where more runners out there stand on the use of caffeine in their training. I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!
Finally, for the energy drink newbies out there, I have taken the liberty of listing my favorite caffeinated products below (in no particular order)…
1.) Lemonade Rockstar: The energy drink that is responsible for sending my caffeine consumption into the stratosphere. Before I tasted this nectar of the God’s, I had always avoided energy drinks because, as mentioned above, they tasted like garbage. This drink perfectly combines the taste of a refreshing lemonade with the kick of a good energy drink.
2.) Orange Rockstar: The ideal breakfast energy drink. Have you ever had the Hi-C Orange drink they have on tap at McDonald’s? This is like the adult version of that drink, it just substitutes the copious amounts of sugar with caffeine. This drink is a wonderful treat that goes down smooth and gives you the perfect amount of umph to get through those crucial morning hours at work.
3.) Mio Energy: Mio is the perfect option for someone that wants to control how flavorful their injection of caffeine will be. I regularly use Mio Energy to flavor my 51oz water bottle at work. I figure if I am going to consume tons of water, it may as well be flavored and a little caffeinated.
4.) Grape 5 Extra Strength 5 Hour Energy: The perfect choice for those mornings when you don’t want to down a 16oz can. This couple ounce shot is a great companion to leave on your night stand with the lid slightly loosened for when your alarm goes off for those ridiculously early Saturday morning long runs in the summer.
5.) Extra Strength Excedrin: Sometimes, when you have a headache from work, nothing alleviates the situation better than washing down two Extra Strength Excedrin with the energy infused beverage of your choice. Your headache symptoms will subside and you won’t fall victim to the mid-afternoon drowsiness that plagues many of your coworkers.
6.) Caffeinated Gels For Race Day: I’m not a huge fan of GU and other gels, but I use them when racing a half marathon or full marathon because they definitely work. Most gels are way too thick and taste awful, so if you are going to cave into using GU or one of the other gels on the market, you may as well make sure that the stuff you are gagging down at the water station has some caffeine in it to fuel your next couple of miles.