Coffee: Fueling Fighters since Forever

HARDCORE!!! Twice the Caffeine!! B Vitamins!! Sick Pumps!


They scream at us from every chiller case in every gas station we walk in and they grace the fists of gym rats and couch captains alike. “They” are the ubiquitous energy drink and their more aggressive cousin, the preworkout supplement. Somewhat interchangeable, these two products are used by millions of people to fuel their workouts and athletic competitions as well as their daily commute or just to get them over the 3PM blahs. Then there’s coffee, the original energy drink used for centuries in various forms to inspirit soldier and worker alike. Everyone is well versed in coffee’s place in the morning ritual, but few understand that coffee is an excellent preworkout and has multiple advantages over commercial energy drinks and preworkout supplements.

The main source of caffeine in energy drinks and preworkout supplements is anhydrous caffeine, which is a synthetic form of caffeine made from urea. It’s made by processing the urea using chemicals like methylene chloride, ethyl acetate and carbon dioxide. The caffeine in coffee is naturally occurring and is not processed using any chemicals beyond those used in the normal harvesting and roasting process. This is where selecting a high quality, organically grown and roasted coffee like Ground Shark Coffee is important.

Synthetic caffeine is absorbed through the digestive system much more rapidly than the natural caffeine found in coffee. This leads to a much faster spike in caffeine levels, but also a much faster and sharper crash. Coffee provides a smoother supply of caffeine for a more sustained energy boost. This is further supported by the natural vitamins and polyphenols in coffee that help further smooth out the delivery of caffeine.

These natural vitamins and polyphenols provide a few extra bonuses in addition to governing the caffeine delivery. Recent studies1 show that fresh brewed dark roast coffee has a protective and repairing effect on DNA, resulting in a 23% reduction in DNA damage over a 4-week period. This regenerative effect on our DNA may explain why coffee is also shown to help increase lifespan and reduce all-cause mortality. Research out of New England2 and Japan3 show that coffee drinkers had a lower mortality rate than people who exhibited similar lifestyle choices and didn’t drink coffee. Juxtapose this with the health effects of the artificial sweeteners, petroleum-based vitamins, and high sugar content in energy drinks and it becomes obvious which one is better for your health.

If you like light roast coffee don’t think you lost the coffee lottery. The polyphenols that scientists identified in the research above are actually HIGHER in light and medium roast coffees. Light roast coffee has also been shown to help support muscle mass. This is perfect for your favorite spazzy white belt who needs to rely on strength. Researchers found that coffee (not caffeine) activates AMPK, which increases glucose transport into the muscle cell. A Korean study showed that coffee helps to speed up the repair of injured muscle tissue4. Coffee drinkers also have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, cancer, stroke, and a number of other health issues all due to the natural vitamins and polyphenols in coffee. It’s important to remember that all the benefits of coffee listed above are not associated with caffeine, but with coffee itself.  Decaf drinkers can get the benefits as well. We’ve got light, medium, dark, and espresso roasts, so every coffee drinker can find a flavor. Except decaf drinkers. For now…

In addition to the health and fitness benefits above coffee is the ultimate preworkout supplement because it’s customizable for your goals and your lifestyle. Are you living the keto/low carb life but still want to throw some weight around? Add some creatine and MCT oil to your coffee before heading to the gym. Are you fasting, but still need to push through a workout? Black coffee is shown to not produce an insulin response while fasting, unlike some of the artificial sweeteners in zero calorie preworkouts or energy drinks6. Are you an over-40 Brazillian Jiu Jitsu player and need joint support while fueling your rolls? Try adding a scoop of collagen peptides to your coffee before simulating murder on your best friends. Collagen ingested before or during exercise is preferentially used to repair connective tissues like cartilage, ligaments, and tendons rather than going to the hair, nails, or skin.

Coffee is a natural, healthy, and customizable way to support your athletic goals. Next time you need a little pick-me-up before your next workout, try walking past the refrigerator case and going for the hot plate. Or better yet, brew up a pot of your favorite Ground Shark Coffee at home. You’ll be guaranteed organically grown and roasted coffee to fuel you for the fight and help you wake up like you mean it.


This post is written by contributing author Scott Barker. Scott is a BJJ white belt who takes his coffee how he takes his whiskey: straight up. He supports his BJJ and coffee habits through his work as a program manager for a military manufacturer.



1 - Schipp, Dorothea, et al., "Consumption of a dark roast coffee blend reduces DNA damage in humans: results from a 4-week randomised controlled study," European Journal of Nutrition, 17 November, 2018.

2 - Freedman, Neal, et al., "Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality," New England Journal of Medicine, May 17, 2012.

3 - Saito, E, et al, "Association of coffee intake with total and cause-specific mortality in a Japanese population: the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Study," Am J Clin Nutr. 2105, May;101(5):1029-37.

4 - Young Jin Jang; Hyo Jeong Son; Ji-Sun Kim; Chang Hwa Jung; Jiyun Ahn; Jinyoung Hurac; and Tae Youl Ha, "Coffee consumption promotes skeletal muscle hypertrophy and myoblast differentiation," Food and Function, 15 Jan 2018.

5 - Arnot, Bob, "Coffee: The Ultimate Health Drink." BottomLine Health, October 2017, Volume 31, No. 10, pp. 1 -3.

6 - "Sucralose Affects Glycemic and Hormonal Responses to an Oral Glucose Load"
M. Yanina Pepino, PHD, Courtney D. Tiemann, MPH, MS, RD, Bruce W. Patterson, PHD, Burton M. Wice, PHD and Samuel Klein, MD

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