Caffeine, aspartame and the great coffee before exercise debate

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We get to the bottom of the fake sugar, diet drinks and caffeine addictions...

Coffee cup

© Getty - Handbag

We're constantly told that too much caffeine is bad for us, but new research shows that a few mugs of coffee and some diet coke might actually be good for us.

According to Nathan Jendrick, author of Gym-Free and Toned, compared to those who don't drink coffee, coffee drinkers are at a lower risk of type-2 diabetes, dementia, cancer, stroke and Parkinson's disease. Not bad, eh?

Coffee is also a great source of antioxidants that help to prevent cell damage caused by free radical 'pollutants' in the atmosphere. Plus, it can also act as a mild appetite suppressant which is useful for people on a calorie controlled diet.

So, what are the downsides? Well, when we talk about coffee in this context we mean standard black filter coffee, not a double whip, extra caramel, double mocha latte which is full of saturated fat and hidden calories.

According to a study in Australia, even a small quantity of caffeine can help athletes to exercise for almost a third longer. It can also trigger the muscles to start using fat as an energy source rather than carbohydrate sugars. So, a good old fashioned mug of coffee in the morning can boost your workout, give you a jolt of antioxidants and make you feel a little bit perkier at 8am.

So far, so good.

But what about diet caffeinated drinks that contain low calorie sweeteners like aspartame? We asked Helen Munday, Coca-Cola's GB Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, to explain the situation for us and this is what she had to say...

"In Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero, caffeine is used as a flavouring. A 330ml can of Coca-Cola has less than a third of the caffeine of an average mug of coffee, and less than half the caffeine of an average cup of tea.

The Food Standards Agency does not give a limit to the amount of caffeine normal adults should consume on a daily basis but they do advise not to have more than 200mg of caffeine a day when you're pregnant."

Although there's no limit to the amount of caffeine we can drink, it can raise your blood pressure. So it's always worth giving that third cup of coffee a second thought before you knock it back.

One of the biggest issues surrounding diet drinks is the use of aspartame - a low calorie sweetener used to replace sugar. Despite loads of rumours, it's actually one of the most studied and reviewed ingredients, which has passed rigorous safety assessments.

Helen told us, "The safety of sweeteners such as aspartame is carefully regulated by the European Food Safety Authority, who have found aspartame to be safe. In fact, aspartame's safety has been documented in more than 200 objective scientific studies."

Therefore, drinking a cup of regular coffee in the morning isn't a bad thing, feeling like you need a cuppa to get the day off to a flying start isn't necessarily bad either and coffee can be a good addition to an exercise regime. Just make sure you don't go overboard or you'll wreak havoc on your blood pressure!

Monitor your daily caffeine intake with Coca-Cola's new online 'Caffeine Counter'.
Will you be enjoying a coffee revival?

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