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Is Caffeine Bad For Triathletes?

Posted Mar 12 2010 12:35pm
Is Caffeine Bad For Triathletes?
By Eric Petersen, CPFT
Coach, Pacific Elite Fitness at
Americans and many other countries love their coffee.  First thing in the morning, before a shower or even patting the family dog on the head – gotta’ have that cup of Joe!  There are others who have either heard that coffee is bad for you or simply don’t like the flavor, and drink tea instead.  Others will grab a soda or even an energy drink to get their morning going.  Then the common pattern at work is a few more cups of coffee (or tea, energy drink, diet soda, etc.) to perk up the morning rush, then maybe another after lunch to fight off the effects of a hurried simple carbohydrate based or overly processed microwave meal.  You may even be nursing a warm cup of coffee while you read this.

We often hear stories of the benefits of coffee, or even tea – anything from assisting in weight loss to reducing the risk of diabetes.  However, a bigger, less know effect of coffee, tea, energy drinks, sodas, and other drinks is that they all lower your body’s pH levels.  “pH” is a scale that measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The scale ranges from 1 to 14 with 1 being very acid, 7 neutral and 14 very alkaline.  So what does pH have to do with you and your blood? Well, the pH of your blood is extremely important. The ideal pH level for your blood is right around 7.35 and your body goes to enormous lengths to maintain this level.

Why? Because if your blood pH were to vary 1 or 2 points in either direction, it would change the electrical chemistry in your body, there would be no electrical power and in short order you would drop dead. As you can see, maintaining the right pH level in your blood is pretty important!!  Inadequate mineral intake, the sweat-induced loss of calcium and magnesium, stress (both physical and psychological) and the intake of acidic beverages (including coffee, tea, soda, juice milk and energy drinks) disrupt the body’s blood chemistry, making it more acidic.

When the body is too acidic, it will extract essential minerals from bones and tissues in an effort to restore alkalinity. This, in turn, dramatically increases the risk of bone loss for both men and women. When your cells and tissues are overly acidic, you are more likely to:

-Fatigue more quickly and recover from exercise more slowly.
-Find it difficult to concentrate and feel pessimistic.
-Have difficulty setting and working toward goals.
-Suffer from frequent colds, flu, allergies or respiratory problems.
-Experience chronic muscle soreness or joint pain and stiffness.

These are only a few of the more serious effects of low (acidic) blood pH levels, and when you think of a developing teenager gulping down energy drinks, the greater concerns become obvious.  Sitting at your desk at work drinking more and more coffee to keep alert and energy levels up is only making the problem worse over time.  

So, is drinking coffee bad for you?  I advise my clients to reduce or eliminate caffeine (except before an endurance event), sodas, energy drinks, etc. depending on their goals.  One client who was training for an endurance event was a ‘lifetime’ coffee drinker – and after quitting the habit he found that after two weeks he was more alert at work, able to get up on the first alarm without effort, and had far more energy to devote to his workouts.  The proof is in the results.

However, like with any stimulant, a proper tapering off of your drink of choice is required in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms, non-coffee headaches, or even relapse.

At Pacific Elite Fitness, our nutritionally trained coaches can put you in touch with one of our trusted resources, and help you discover how you should be custom fueling your body. Coach Eric Petersen, the author of this article, can be reached by visiting, or by e-mailing
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