Starbucks Anyone

In the "old" days, you could get a good cup of coffee in New York City for 50c. Today, in the era of gourmet coffee shops, half a buck gets you into the men's room. Simply put, coffee has become big business. While you can drop $3.50 for a mocha latte cappuccino at a Starbucks, caffeine—a substance banned by the International Olympic Committee—is one of the cheapest and perhaps most beneficial ergogenic aids out there. (Just for the record: To get booted from the Olympics for abusing caffeine you'd have to top out way above the 100- to 300-milligram dose that is allowable and most beneficial. A cup of brewed coffee contains about 125 milligrams of caffeine.)

Caffeine works to help you in two ways. During aerobic activities it can increase the availability of fat as fuel. And while it won't make you stronger during weight lifting, there is some evidence out there that caffeine helps make the activity seem easier.

Before you start swilling shots of espresso, keep the following in mind.

>- Caffeine can cause gastrointestinal problems.

> Drinking too much can make you jittery.

> Caffeine is a diuretic. Drink extra water if you're going to work up a sweat.

> There are possible links between caffeine consumption and benign fibrocystic breast disease.

> If you have an ulcer or irregular heartbeat, your best bet is to stick to decaf.

In the final analysis, each person has a different tolerance for this age-old pick-me-up. Joe, who is a minor coffee fiend, never drinks the stuff before a race, since he feels it dehydrates him and messes with his heart rate. However, he has a friend who is one of the top racers in the country who often has someone hand him a piping hot cup of coffee midway through the race to give him an added jolt. Experiment to see what works for you.

HMB (hydroxymethylbutyrate), pyruvate, inosine, branch-chained amino acids, ma huang, bee pollen, ginseng, and guarana are eight rather popular supplements you've probably heard about. None of them impress us for a variety of reasons, mainly because we're concerned about whether they're safe and effective.

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HMB (hydroxymethylbutyrate), pyruvate, inosine, branch-chained amino acids, ma huang, bee pollen, ginseng, and guarana are eight rather popular supplements you've probably heard about. None of them impress us for a variety of reasons, mainly because we're concerned about whether they're safe and effective.

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