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Get Your Java Jolt On!

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Guest blogger JJ Virgin: Somewhere in the morning rush between getting yourself ready for work and getting the kids ready for school and out the door on time, you pour yourself a cup of coffee -- a little cup of sanity to get you through the dash around town. Most likely, it's part of your routine, as standard as grabbing your purse on the way out of the house. So you may not have given a second thought to the fact that there's been a lot of debate recently about whether drinking coffee is beneficial or detrimental to overall health.

One of the pluses is that caffeine increases the body's metabolic and fat-breakdown rates by using fat as a fuel during exercise as well as during rest. And a recent Australian study revealed another reason to enjoy a cup of joe: It helps you sprint faster. The researchers gave fit athletes a 300-milligram dose of caffeine one hour before they ran five sets of 6 x 20-meter sprints; the runners who had consumed caffeine ran faster than those who hadn't. Scientists believe that this is because the stimulant enhances reaction time and running speed. 

Not only may caffeine enhance your workout, but according to another study, it may also accelerate your post-exercise recovery time. This study involved cyclists riding hard for two consecutive days. On the first day, the cyclists consumed a low-carb post-workout dinner, designed to diminish their muscle-glycogen (read: energy) stores prior to the next day's workout. After the second day of cycling, they were given drinks that contained either carbs alone or carbs plus caffeine. The researchers found that the glycogen stores of the cyclists who had been given the caffeine were 66 percent higher than those whose drink had contained only carbs. 

I'm all for drinking one to two cups of coffee per day, but one of the pitfalls for coffee drinkers is the temptation to load their coffee with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Resist the urge: Try simply adding a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg to your coffee grounds. The result is a sweet, sugar-free treat! 

Celebrity nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin is the author of "Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy" and the costar of TLC's "Freaky Eaters" reality series. Visit her at to grab her free audio, "7 Steps to Break Your 'Freaky' Food Habits Fast & Forever!"

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