Saturday, December 31, 2011

Coffee For Better Performance in the (Happy) New Year

This year, we spent part of winter holiday skiing in the Berkshires. I love the quiet thrill of being on top of the mountain, anticipating the downward descent. I love a brisk sunny day---and I love a good cup of coffee.

Turns out the coffee in the ski lodge was not so good. It was black sludge. In contrast, the coffee at the hotel we stay in near Mass Moca was smooth and perfect. It came in a thermos, housed in a corrugated metal lunchbox. I was charmed, but the coffee, was and always has been excellent at Porches.

Despite the fact that one cup was amazingly good and the other breathtakingly bad, I drank them both. They served an important purpose. They helped improve my performance. Numerous studies have shown that caffeine enhances sports performance across a wide range of activities, such as running, tennis, and rowing. Effects can last up to an hour.

True, coffee is remarkably energizing, but the underlying reason that coffee enhances performance is that caffeine increases the power output of muscles by releasing calcium stored in muscles. The result: longer and faster performance, with an average improvement of 5%.

I have a friend in his 60’s (around my father’s age), who skis hard, fast, and intensely. He skis better than me by orders of magnitude. He is a coffee drinker, as am I. While that 5% may make a marginal difference for him competitively, for me, it just makes me happier as I leisurely come down the slopes watching my husband and daughter whiz by.

Northeastern winters are a distinct pleasure. Of course, we are accustomed to this reality and the idea that coffee and other hot drinks will get us through.

Happy New Year! Enjoy….Here’s to a happy, prosperous, healthy, productive, and awe-inspiring 2012!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Drinking to Uterine Health and Starbucks Hits a Milestone in China

Ni hao! It’s coffee-drinking time!

Just as the cool air arrives and finally starts to settle in here in the northeastern United States, we get the awesome news that Starbucks has opened its 500th cafĂ© in China! It’s in the international departure hall of the Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3. The president of Starbucks China, Belinda Wong, cites the value of Starbucks as the ability to “serve our customers.” Drinking hot beverages in a spirit of community, whether a standing or transitional community, is universal. John Culver, president Starbucks Asia Pacific speaks to the need to offer the “Starbucks experience to provide the highest quality Arabica coffee, handcrafted beverages, and an exceptional experience one customer at a time.”

Fortunately, as people in China drink more coffee, they will also reap the tremendous health resources associated with coffee. Now for the latest coffee-health update: Women who drink at least 4 cups of coffee per day are less likely to get uterine cancer. That’s the news according to data from a 26-year study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention on November 22, 2011. In a study of 67,470 women between the ages of 34 and 59, researchers explored the link between coffee and uterine cancer between 1980 and 2006. Women who consumed 4 or more cups had a 25% lower risk of developing uterine/endometrial cancer, compared with those who consumed less than one cup per day (P=.02).

Researchers suggest that the link may be based on the fact that coffee lowers estrogen and insulin levels, but caution that cream and sugar could ruin the health-enhancing effects of coffee.

Drink up and stay healthy and happy!