We could use “science” to show all sorts of “research” and “facts” about why you are a useless bag of shit without your morning cup of coffee, but you already know it. In this case, there are enough examples o’er the land that, just maybe, this time the plural of “anecdote” IS “data.”
Okay, perhaps just a wee bit o’ science.
The World Health Organization just dropped coffee from its list of possible carcinogens. I read that and was like, It was on there to begin with? If I’d been sitting around drinking my morning poop juice and someone said to me, “You know, the WHO says that coffee can lead to bladder cancer” my reply would have been, “YOU SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH!”
It’s all good, though. No tumors in ye old pee bag. At least, not from coffee, so drink up.
Except before a race. Don’t drink before a race. Wait, what? I’m still ditching the science here and going on anecdote, but it should come across as logical once I explain it, so bear with me. It was my running coach who suggested I do use this method before my Boston Marathon qualifying race, and it worked like a steaming cup of hot damn.
I drink a lot of coffee. I’ll go through an entire French press worth each morning; three decent-size cups. But before the Victoria Marathon I started weaning off. I went down to two cups for a day, then one cup the next day, then half a cup. Then, the day before the race, I had no coffee. The horror!
That night I left the carb-loading dinner with a splitting headache. It was one of those headaches that can only be cured with one thing other than IV morphine, and that’s sleep. I crashed instantly and was out for nine hours.
You read that right: I slept for nine hours the night before my BQ attempt. If you’ve ever had a race where you were putting it all on the line the next day, you know that nerves can have you tossing and turning. This was only my second marathon, and for the first one in Los Angeles I got about two hours the night before due to pre-race anxiety.
But I was too damn caffeine-deprived to be anxious, and I slept. The fact that the starting gate was less than a mile from my hotel and it was a small field helped, as there was no worrying over “How do I get to the start line and queue up with all the cattle?”
Being able to sleep the night before is great, but it gets better. There is also the boost.
It’s a bit of a “Well, duh!” that if you take a break from coffee then suddenly go for the big Starbucks (which ranks as one of the highest caffeine-containing brands) that you’re going to suddenly feel like you injected meth directly into your quadriceps. That shit will hit you like a coked-up rhino in full charge and you’ll be all like Gotta run! Gotta run! Gotta run!
There is an even more important reason to do it, and it’s all about running on empty.
No, I’m not talking about going without calories prior to the race. I used to do that but have since learned my lesson, because science. I’m talking about poo.
I know a lot of people who take Imodium before a race to prevent the need for a number 2 porta-potty visit somewhere along the course, which can be hell on your time. But I don’t find appealing having a lump of excrement that’s been pharmaceutically induced to transform from coal into a smelly diamond inside me while I’m running as fast as I can.
Very literally, I want that shit gone.
When you take a break from coffee, and then go for the Starbucks high-test, it’s an epic evacuation. If they made a movie about it they would call it The Purge, except without the annual killing spree. Follow this protocol and prior to your race you shall be cleansed from sternum to sacrum*.
(*Not a guarantee.)
At least, it’s worth a shot.
In my writing, I endeavor to not be full of shit. The downside is that it doesn’t make as much money because if I had no morals I could package up my neighbor’s dogshit into gelatin capsules and sell it on the internet as an all-natural appetite suppressant and make a fortune. The bonus is that I get to not hate myself, despite not having a Ferrari.
I also endeavor to not be full of shit on race day. And just like being honest with my writing, it feels good.
James S. Fell is an internationally syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind, published by Random House Canada. He also interviews celebrities about their fitness stories for the Los Angeles Times, and is head fitness columnist for AskMen.com and a regular contributor to Men’s Health.