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Espresso is good for your exercise!

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Samuele Marcora, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Kent, advocates a safe drug that literally makes exercise easier and more fun.

It’s caffeine.

The stimulant alters how your brain perceives how hard you’re working during physical activity, according to several studies by Marcora and other scientists.

In one recent study, Marcora gave half of the subjects a caffeine pill before they exercised. Even though all study participants did the exact same workout, the wired group rated their exertion as a 6.1 on a 10-point scale, while the people who took a placebo rated it at 6.7.

The same effect has been found for all types of workouts, including endurance aerobics, resistance training, and high-intensity interval training, he says.

When you exercise, your neurons produce adenosine, a chemical that makes you feel fatigued, says Marcora. Caffeine blocks the adenosine so you don’t feel drained—which makes the workout feel easier.

Sure, the difference in exertion from 6.1 to 6.7 doesn’t sound huge. But it’s enough to help you bang out a few more reps or one more mile, taking your fitness to the next level, Marcora says.

Perhaps more importantly, if the workout isn’t so hard, you may enjoy it more—and be more likely to stick to your program.

“Doping” with caffeine could make exercise feel easier, getting some people off their bums and into the gym. Other drugs, notably acetaminophen (Tylenol), have been investigated to decrease the discomfort of exercise and improve performance.

“Most people get a reduction in perception of effort, with no serious significant side effects, with 3 milligrams (of caffeine) per kilogram of body weight,” writes Marcora. For most, that is less than what’s found in a grande Starbucks coffee.

But why do we need drugs to encourage something so good for us? Though factors such as technological conveniences have made skirting the recommended amount of physical activity all too easy, scientists now theorize that some of us are born wanting to run—and some aren’t.

Hah, who would have thought…

Tayne Gonzales

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