The Black Magic

Miracle of miracles! As a former four-cream-and-four-sugar coffee drinker (or as we Canadians call it, the 4×4), I have officially re-trained my taste buds to enjoy coffee black.  It took a few years, but this has got to be one of the most mind-blowing truths in my fitness journey thus far — that even black coffee is not beyond me! Or dare I say, you.

But even after going from a 120-calorie-sin to a 5-calorie-freebie, I’ve been wondering lately if having the same thing every day is wise. Thankfully, food expert Ori Hofmekler has come to my rescue to debunk some common myths and teach us how to maximize the benefits of coffee. After reading an interesting article on Hofmekler’s research findings, I discovered that my suspicions were somewhat correct.  Turns out, my post-workout java is inhibiting my muscle repair and there is a science about how and when you should drink your coffee. I’ve taken the best of the article, and Hofmekler’s research, to compile a Top Ten list for you. Fun, right?!

Top Ten Rules for Your Cup of Joe

10. Always Buy Organic

Conventionally grown coffee is heavily contaminated with pesticides and one of the most heavily sprayed crops grown. Do your organs a favor (and the people who have to grow the stuff) and buy organic.

9. Keep It Black

I know some of you are cringing at those words even gracing your brainwaves, but by adding sugar to your coffee, you ruin the coffee’s benefits by overspiking your insulin and causing insulin resistance.  Cream doesn’t have that affect but it’s a killer on the scale. And please, for the love of all that is pure and holy, do not tell me you use fake creamer. You know how I feel about that!

8. Say No To Bleach

Make sure to use non-bleached filters if you have a drip coffee maker. The white filters are bleached with chlorine which can leech into your coffee during the brewing process.

7. Buy It Whole

Just like chopping vegetables and eating them the next day compromises the nutritional value, once a bean is ground, it immediately begins to degrade and within a week, creates rancid oils. Your best bet is to grind your beans right before you use them.

6. Keep It Balanced

We all know that cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment but Hofmekler reminds us that not all acids are the same and some are even highly beneficial (such as plant-based antioxidants). We  shouldn’t write off coffee just because it’s naturally acidic but instead, Hofmekler suggests the acidic nature of coffee is not a concern so long as you keep your coffee intake moderate (one cup a day is best) while eating a balanced diet of proteins, carbs and fats.  This furthers my claim that no-carb diets and non-fat foods are a dieter’s mistake.

5. Decaf Is Dead

“Every time you get naturally occurring caffeine, such as in cocoa beans, coffee or tea, you get it from a nutritionally dense healthy whole food. And when you use the same food in a decaffeinated form such as decaffeinated coffee, or decaffeinated tea, you ingest ‘nutritionally deficient inferior’ foods.  A tea without caffeine is useless. It loses all the antioxidant bioflavonoids in the processing. Same with decaffeinated coffee…it has zero nutritional value.” ~ Ori Hofmekler

4. Compare Apples with Apples

Like most foods, when you isolate one part of the food, it’s often found to have harmful effects. Knowing this, Hofmekler studied the whole bean rather than just focusing on caffeine.  He discovered that our bodies react differently to straight-up caffeine vs. caffeine consumed within black coffee which indicates that we can’t use synthetic caffeine studies as reason to not drink coffee. Knowing this somehow makes me feel better about my hit of java every day!

3. Rev Your Metabolism

Hofmekler’s research concluded that coffee consumption increased metabolism by up to 20% (when consumed before exercise). That’s not a small number! Of course, many crash dieters have known caffeine to be a weight loss tool but again, we can see the harmful affects of synthetic caffeine in many studies. Go for the real stuff if you want the metabolism boost and leave the pills for the yo-yo dieters!

2. Muscle Recovery

According to a study published in the March 2007 issue of The Journal of Pain, having two cups of coffee an hour before training can help reduce post-workout muscle soreness by up to 48 percent. This is compared to studies using naproxen (Aleve) only achieving a 30 percent decrease and aspirin a 25 percent decrease.

1. Pre-Workout

I’m gonna get a little medical-freaky on you now. But stick with me, it’ll be worth it!

Both exercise and coffee inhibit your mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin), which is the mechanism that increases protein synthesis in your muscle (that’s what grows your muscles).

There are two interesting parts to this; first off, it makes sense that exercise inhibits your mTOR because every strong girl knows you don’t build muscle while you workout, but after. But that also means that you need to create a favorable environment post-workout so that your body can absorb as much protein as possible to feed those growing muscles. Hence, the need for an immediate and easily-digestible protein snack post-workout.

So me drinking coffee (which then inhibits my mTOR) as soon as I’m done in the gym is actually messing with my body’s need to rebuild and repair in the most critical time of all — immediately after my workout.

“So when exercise and coffee inhibit the mTOR, as soon as you stop exercising, mTOR kicks back in with a vengeance. And when you eat a recovery meal after exercise, your muscle is biologically most prepared to accept protein and gain muscle mass.” ~ Ori Hofmekler

This really hit home with me because my morning routine consists of working out, grabbing a coffee from the gym’s Starbucks machine, drinking it in the car, and then having a post-workout snack once I get home (sometimes an hour later). Not only do our bodies need that post-workout protein/carbs hit much sooner (in fact, within 30 minutes of finishing your workout), but I need to take advantage of that critical time for protein synthesis and avoid coffee if I really want to get the best results.

I went to my kettlebell class yesterday and made sure to have a protein shake immediately afterward instead of coffee.  It’s too soon to tell if it made a difference but I can say that a protein shake is nicer on an empty stomach than coffee is!

Is there anything in this list that you will implement?

Domestically Yours,
Natasha Kay


Coming Next on Domestica: Why you need to stay away from anything made with “protein isolates” (as found in most energy bars and protein shakes) and what your healthiest choices are for protein powders.

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9 thoughts on “The Black Magic

  1. Jason (bulldog) says:

    Thanks Natasha! I am going to try to retrain myself in giving up the sugar and cream after reading this. Its not gonna be easy though. Also very interesting about coffee and working out, I never would have thought.

    • Natasha Kay says:

      Good for you for starting to cut back…it’s not easy at first but wow, once you get it done – you’ll be SO proud of yourself for getting rid of such needless calories, nevermind the other health issues associated with sugar. 🙂

  2. heidi says:

    great info. i no longer enjoy sweet coffee, but i have to say a tablespoon of milk still seems necessary to me. perhaps i’ll cut down to half a tablespoon and see how i do! i’m also curious about the caffeinated vs. decaf point when it comes to being pregnant. caffeine isn’t great for the baby, but is drinking decaf during pregnancy more of an issue? or should i just grit my teeth and give up coffee entirely for the next year and a half of my life? (i don’t drink caffeine while nursing either)

    • Natasha Kay says:

      Heidi, you are totally fine with that 1 tbsp of milk. I mean, I would have still been putting one creamer in but I found that my taste buds actually started to revolt against ANY creamer! I was wondering why my coffee was tasting funny (like filmy on my tongue almost) and then accidentally took a sip of black coffee and was like, “WOAH! It tastes the way I used to think my coffee with cream tasted!” And then I realized that I was ready to drink black.

      Anyway, about the decaf. You are an exception. Pregnant women should NEVER drink caffeinated beverages. There have been all sorts of horrid links to learning delays and problems in children when the mother had caffeine while pregnant (this includes soda!). Just know that when drinking decaf, you’re not getting coffee’s natural benefits that I talked about. Which is fine because you’re focusing on more important things — like growing a baby! 🙂

  3. 2blu2btru says:

    I don’t drink or eat anything with caffeine in it (I am a “nearly former” migraine sufferer, and caffeine was on the list of possible triggers), but I found the information interesting.

  4. Karen W. says:

    I never thought I could give up coffee and was using Stevia to sweeten it BUT interestingly enough – about 2 months ago I started juicing and making green smoothies on a daily basis and I just completely lost my craving for coffee. I could NOT believe it – it is not something I even tried to do.

    • Natasha Kay says:

      Awesome! I did a plant-based cleanse for three weeks in 2009. I wasn’t super strict but I made sure to have oatmeal for breakfast, a smoothie for a snack (with Vega’s Smoothie Infusion), and a salad for lunch. I went of coffee and was blown away at how I didn’t need it because my body was operating at peak performance! It’s ALL about diet!

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