How coffee can fuel your workout

By Danielle Masterson contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images Extreme Media
© Getty Images Extreme Media

Related tags: Coffee, Black tea, pre-workout, post-workout, Caffeine, informed sport certification

Although coffee is drunk by 150 million Americans everyday, the idea of drinking a cup of joe to supplement a workout is still a young idea. But a small group of entrepreneurs, scientists, and sports performance specialists are hoping the niche category will go mainstream.

In recent years, the group managed to transform a traditional beverage start-up into an ingredient technology company after being introduced to a black tea ingredient in 2015. 

TheaFit, the active ingredient in WORKOUT coffee, is a high potency theaflavin enriched black tea extract that is patented and clinically proven to improve exercise performance as well as reduce recovery time.

Pre- and post-workout grind

While the product has been available on Amazon, the company's CEO said he didn’t want to do a full launch until the website was complete. 

“Now that we have the site up, we're ready to really rock and roll on it,” ​said CEO Mark Davis, who added that the response so far has been fantastic. “We have advocates that swear by the functionality. It's interesting because the clinical research supports not only performance, which is considered pre-workout, but it also supports recovery, which is post-workout. We're getting good positive feedback on both sides — which is great. But it also presents a bit of a marketing challenge on which to focus on.”

The effects of theaflavin enriched black tea extract on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), oxidative stress and inflammation were originally studied at Rutgers University, led by sports scientist Shawn Arent, PhD.

The research consisted of double-blind, placebo controlled, cross-over studies. TheaFit (formally called T-40) was found to produce significantly higher peak power output, reduce oxidative stress, lower cortisol levels, minimize DOMS and reduce inflammation. The results of the clinical trials were published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition and resulted in two US patents for improved exercise performance and reduced recovery time. 

Arent, now the Professor & Chair, Dept. of Exercise Science Director, University of South Carolina Sport Science Lab, admits that initially he didn’t expect much from a performance standpoint. Noting that there was some interesting anti-inflammatory data in the animal-model work that was done prior to his clinical trial, Arent said, “The improvements in performance across intervals was somewhat surprising, particularly when coupled with the faster recovery from the bout. This was a fairly consistent effect. From an adaptation standpoint, I was intrigued to see that the ingredient didn’t PREVENT stress (i.e., cortisol still increased, IL-6 still increased, etc.), but it did promote a faster recovery of those markers.”

Informed-Sport certified 

A major concern for many competitive athletes is supplements that contain prohibited substances. With that in mind, Arent encouraged Davis to seek Informed-Sport Certification. Davis admits that while it was a long process, he is glad he did so because the move illustrates the company’s commitment to science and safety. 

“We know that we're the only coffee in the world that has an Informed Sport Certification. So this is going to be one way to basically give us a path to enter the professional collegiate high level athlete fitness market,”​ said Davis. 

“I applaud the company for taking the initiative to do this,” ​said Arent. “That spoke volumes to me about their commitment to do this the right way. As someone who works with and studies athletes, I was glad to see this.”

Arent added that he also appreciates the fact that the company made the dosing of the formula to be consistent with what was used in the research.

More than just a humble cup of coffee 

“Ultimately, people need to understand that this is more than ‘just coffee.’ What I’ve found interesting with some other “fitness coffees” out there is that they say they contain a number of ingredients, but quantities are unknown. Plus, most of the extra ingredients are heat-sensitive. TheaFit is heat-extracted in the first place, so it survives the process of brewing as well,”​ explained Arent. “Sometimes manufacturers try to get overly fancy with putting everything under the kitchen sink into a pre-workout or something like that. This is coffee (so caffeine) and the black tea extract (as TheaFit): simple but effective.”

“There's just not a lot of guys that are doing what we're doing,” ​noted Davis. “I mean, there's nobody that's doing it to the level that we are in terms of taking a natural plant-based ingredient that’s patented and clinically proven to improve exercise performance and reduce muscle soreness. We're very unique in that aspect, and we have rigorous science to back the infusion in our coffee.”

Arent joked “It’s coffee combined with something I patented. What’s not to love?!”

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