Coffee a sports drink? Caffeine dulls muscle pain
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What’s your take on drinking caffeinated beverages, including coffee, before exercise or before a game? I have told my sons that drinking such beverages will dehydrate them. They claim they boost energy and are harmless. Who’s right? — D.M.
ANSWER: Moderate amounts of caffeinated drinks, including coffee, before exercise or before a game are acceptable and can even provide benefits for an athlete used to drinking such beverages. Moderate translates into about three cups of coffee. Coffee has almost reached the status of a health drink. It provides protection against heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. And it might decrease the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a source of magnesium, chromium, potassium and the B vitamin niacin. It contains antioxidants. Oxidants are byproducts of cells that act to promote effects similar to those of rust. Antioxidants are rust-proofing materials.
As for sports, caffeine has many favorable effects. It boosts endurance, and that has been shown in many studies. It enhances the body’s burning of fat for energy. That preserves the body’s stores of glycogen, stored carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are high-octane energy fuels. Keeping them in reserve makes it possible to withstand the rigors of long-duration events. Even athletes whose sports require short bursts of intense energy gain an advantage from caffeine.
As for your point about increased urination and possible dehydration from caffeinated beverages, that was something that was taught for many years. It became a universal belief. It isn’t true, however. Caffeine-containing beverages cause the production of no more urine than does the equivalent amount of water. Athletes who drink such beverages don’t become dehydrated and don’t lose their ability to control body temperature.
Caffeine seems to dull muscle pain that comes with exercise.
On the downside, caffeine causes the jitters in some, and it can lead to tremors that interfere with fine muscle control and coordination. That’s an effect that is learned through experience. If it happens, then caffeine should not be part of an athlete’s pre-exercise routine.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: When my son was 3, our pediatrician said he had a heart murmur. He didn’t say anything needed to be done, and he didn’t say the boy couldn’t be as active as he wanted to be. Now my son is at an age where he wants to play organized sports. He has to have a physical exam. Should I mention the murmur to the doctor? — S.R.
ANSWER: Sure, mention it. The doctor will be extra careful when listening to the boy’s heart.
Murmurs are noises made because of eddy currents developing in the blood when it flows from one heart chamber to the next. In many young children, murmurs are heard because they have thin chests. A thicker chest wall would silence such noises. Those murmurs are innocent murmurs, not indicative of any heart problems. They disappear as the child grows.
I wouldn’t be the least surprised if the examining doctor hears no murmur.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My 15-year-old daughter is using her 17-year-old brother’s weightlifting equipment. I am horrified. I don’t want her to have the same bulging muscles that he has developed. They’re fine on him. They won’t be fine on her. What do you think of weightlifting for girls? — P.G.
ANSWER: I’m all for it. Just about everyone in the fitness world endorses weightlifting for girls. They endorse it for people of all ages and both sexes.
Your daughter won’t develop the same bulging muscles that your son has developed. She doesn’t have the same amount of testosterone he does. Testosterone is the hormone that promotes muscle growth. She will, however, become stronger, and she will be a better athlete — if that’s her goal. If it isn’t her goal, she’ll do her bones a great favor. She’ll lessen her chances of developing osteoporosis later in life. Strong bones are built at young ages.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from

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