Coffee: benefits and misconceptions

Coffee is the ally of many of us, especially in the morning to start the day. But is it really an ally when we do sports? What are its real qualities and what is a received idea?

We tell you all about this grain with a thousand powers!

To begin with: what is coffee and what does it actually contain?


  • The word coffee comes from the Arabic "Elqahwah" which means stimulating drink. It is obtained from the roasted seeds of different varieties of coffee trees. For the record, the "filter coffee" method is called leaching, which was once done with a sock and gave rise to the famous sock juice. Other methods are used to extract the famous beverage: percolation, infusion, decoction, high pressure percolation ... To each individual and culture its method. Note that during the preparation, the more water is in contact with the coffee, the higher the rate of extraction of caffeine will be. The received idea that an espresso is stronger than a long coffee is therefore erroneous: the long one will be more exciting than the short one. Similarly, the finer the coffee is ground, the higher the level of caffeine it contains.
Coffee contains caffeine, a molecule with stimulating properties, but not only!
  • Caffeine can lead to dependence, which is very common and whose withdrawal gives rise to easily observable symptoms: headaches, drowsiness, which will disappear after a few days. This is explained by the fact that caffeine passes into our blood through the small intestine to reach the blood-brain barrier and therefore our brain. The molecule will then bind to the adenosine receptor. The latter facilitates sleep and is a powerful vasodilator. By taking its place and blocking these receptors, caffeine will have an antagonistic effect, but also make the secretion of dopamine more effective. As we saw in a previous article, dopamine is the hormone of alertness and pleasure: it reduces the feeling of fatigue. It is also what can make you addicted to sports because it is addictive. Dopamine promotes the production of two other hormones,adrenaline and noradrenaline. Combine this with the surplus of adenosine molecules remaining in free circulation in the body which amplifies the secretion of adrenaline. Caffeine is therefore a powerful stimulant, more than a stimulant in itself.

    When we consume coffee for several months or years, we cause a disturbance with an overproduction of certain molecules that counteract the side effects of caffeine: this is why during withdrawal, the brain is disturbed again, causing undesirable side effects for a few days. The neuropsychopharmacologists Delaveau and Costentin even attribute to it the status of drug because "it arouses a pleasure and effects which incite to a repeated use which soon borders on need".

    Coffee has also been studied for its therapeutic properties. It promotes insulin secretion and also has positive effects on the cardiovascular system as it stimulates the heart and increases heart rate, blood pressure and vascular resistance. A moderate consumption of coffee (3 to 4 cups per day) would contribute to the reduction of the risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, its hypertensive effect makes it a drink not recommended for people suffering from chronic or serious cardiovascular disease. Numerous studies have also shown that moderate coffee consumption can help prevent certain neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson's, Alzheimer's).

    Caffeine is also used in some medicines, sodas or energy drinks for its stimulating properties. Because of its presence in plants other than the coffee tree, it is sometimes called "theine", "guaranine" or "mateine" - however, it is always the same molecule. There is a caffeine-free version for those who want it. Decaf is obtained by soaking coffee beans in water and then extracting the caffeine from the resulting juice by adding a solvent (usually chlorinated or organic) or by absorption on activated charcoal. The beans are then soaked again in this liquid depleted in caffeine and the solvent eliminated by distillation. Note that an American study showed that decaf was never totally caffeine-free: out of 9 brands, 8 still contained 10 to 15% caffeine, enough to cause a physical dependence.

    Finally, note that coffee is rich in antioxidants and provides potassium, manganese, magnesium and vitamin B2, B3 and B5. On the other hand, it reduces the absorption of iron in the body, so it should ideally be consumed away from meals.

    A drink full of flavour:

    Flavor is the set of olfactory, gustatory and tactile sensations felt when tasting a food product. So we are right in the middle of the subject when it comes to coffee. Who doesn't appreciate the smell of their cup of coffee when they wake up, even before the first sip?

    If coffee is so good, it is because it has aromas that play a major role in the tasting (like good wine). This aroma is perceived by the nasal mucosa when the olfactory compounds reach us. There are about 800 chemical compounds in coffee, with proportions that vary depending on the coffee chosen: hazelnut, walnut, caramel, vanilla ... Note that the compound "coffee flavor" is called 2-furfurylthiol. The majority of these olfactory compounds degrade in air and light, so it is recommended to keep the blend away from air, light and heat.

    It is for all these good reasons that we at Holyfat decided to develop a new flavor in limited edition: the large pouch of Holyfat Café (240gr)! A unique blend of roasted nuts and almonds, TCM oil and coffee subtly dosed to accompany you in your outing and combine pleasure, flavor and performance.

    Coffee and sport: a winning combination?

    Many rumors and misconceptions accompany the intake of coffee before training or a long ride. Studies are quite contradictory on the subject: good, bad, to be avoided or recommended, we do not know which saint to follow. So what is it really?

    In the world of sports, caffeine was once qualified as a "controlled or restricted drug" and classified as a doping agent. That being said, since 2004 caffeine is no longer considered a doping product. However, a urinary concentration higher than 12 µg/ml at the end of a competition is still considered illegal by the International Olympic Committee.

    The harmful effects of excess coffee for the athlete

    Because it is important to know what can harm you if you consume too much coffee before your outing or training, we sort out some of the received ideas. We're talking about caffeine in the form of "pre-workout coffee", not caffeine shooters or energy drinks which of course don't have the same caffeine content as espresso. Note however that, as is often the case, our remarks are general and should be adapted to the individual and their lifestyle/sporting habits.

    • Coffee is a diuretic. This means that if you drink too much coffee, it is not impossible that you will experience gastric problems during exercise! Even if this is not dramatic in itself, it is rather unpleasant, not always practical and it can interrupt the effort. Moreover, the diuretic effect leads to a leakage of minerals through the kidneys. As mineral loss is already a problem faced by endurance athletes, it is not recommended to increase it. Finally, it is vital to maintain good hydration, especially during exercise when water loss is increased.

    • For some people, consuming coffee can lead to digestive problems such as an increase in gastric secretion or a change in transit. In a sporting context, where the digestive system is at half-mast to the benefit of other organs, it is therefore important to consume coffee only if it is properly digested to mitigate the potential digestive fallout: diarrhea, reflux, nausea, ...

    • As we said, caffeine inhibits the absorption of iron. So be careful if you suffer from anemia, especially you, athletes! Avoid consuming your coffee close to a meal.

  • Finally, beware of overdosing! If a moderate dose of caffeine is beneficial for your health and your effort, an overdose is dangerous and can have deleterious effects (tremors, vomiting, headaches, ...). It is strongly advised not to exceed a dose of 400 mg/day for an adult (about 4 cups of filter coffee). Be particularly careful not to combine drinks containing caffeine (coffee, tea, mate, ...) and energy drinks, and avoid capsules, powders or shooters of pure caffeine which generally contain no minerals or beneficial antioxidants.

The positive effects of caffeine for athletes

As you have now understood, coffee stimulates nervous and cerebral functions: it reduces the feeling of fatigue, reinforces motivation, reduces the perception of pain and improves reflexes. By stimulating the production of adrenaline, it also boosts fat metabolism. Indeed, the free adrenaline in circulation would lead to a mobilization of the free fatty acids stored in the adipose or muscular tissues. The increased availability of fatty acids increases fat oxidation in muscles while reducing carbohydrate oxidation, thus improving physical performance when carbohydrate stores are depleted and exhaustion is felt. A study published in April 2013 (journal "Plos One") demonstrated the positive effects of coffee on endurance activities. The subjects, cyclists and runners, ingested coffee one hour before their race (5 mg/kg body weight). The cyclists would have recorded better performances in time trials, while the runners would have increased their average speed and especially intensified their final sprint.caffeine would also have an effect on respiratory capacity: in asthmatics, a controlled dose of caffeine would increase broncho dilatation, thus facilitating respiratory capacity.

In short: like everything in dietetics, it is the dose that makes the poison! Coffee can be an ally of performance but can also play nasty tricks on you if you abuse it. So make sure you measure your consumption of coffee or drinks containing caffeine, both on a daily basis and during exercise. This way, you will benefit from all its advantages without paying the price!

Where is coffee found in Holyfat products?

Many of you have asked us to produce the Holyfat Café energy puree. You can find it in a 40gr portion or in an economical and ecological 240gr format on our website.

Where does the coffee we use come from?

Our coffee is carefully selected and roasted by a producer in Lille.

>> Do not hesitate to consult our other articles, in particular "How to avoid fatigue during the effort, in particular during a sport of endurance? "What is a hypoglycemic attack", "Is the ketogenic diet suitable for athletes", "Sports in cold weather, benefits and dangers", as well as our focus on almonds, walnuts, cocoa or MCT oil... With the added bonus of some tips and advice for the preparation and your sports outings (or your busy days).

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