Caffeine boosting performance! Caffeine is one of the most widely used stimulants in the world. It occurs naturally in foods and beverages such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and cocoa. The average caffeine consumption in the United States is approximately 200 mg. That’s equivalent to 2 cups of coffee a day. Ten percent of the population ingest more than 1000 mg per day. Caffeine is also added to several over-the-counter medicines. These include weight-loss products, pain medicines, and cold remedies. Let’s not forget pre-workouts!
Caffeine boosting performance! How does it do this? First, it is a legal and socially acceptable drug consumed throughout society. Secondly, caffeine is a nutritional ergogenic aid. However, it has no nutritional value. Ingested caffeine is quickly absorbed from the stomach. Absorption peaks in the blood occurring within 1-2 hours.
Most of the tissues of the body absorb caffeine. Therefore, it can affect all the systems of the body. The liver breaks down excess caffeine. The byproducts are excreted in the urine.
Example Of Caffeine Boosting Performance
Athletes that perform short-term intense (near maximal) exercise lasting approximately five minutes have shown improvement. The reason may be a direct effect of caffeine on muscle contraction during anaerobic exercise. From “Caffeine Supplementation & Athletic Performance”
Caffeine spares muscle glycogen. That is the common explanation as to why caffeine improves endurance.
Caffeine Boosting Performance – Research
Studies suggest that glycogen sparing may occur as a result of caffeine’s ability to increase the release of adrenaline (epinephrine) into the blood, thus stimulating the release of free fatty acids from skeletal muscle/fat tissue. It is important to note, however, that studies cannot fully explain the ergogenic effect of caffeine.
Put into the context of exercise, this meant that exercising muscles were able to use the additional fat during the initial stages of exercise, thus decreasing the initial depletion of muscle glycogen (carbohydrate). This spares glycogen later in your workout. This delays the onset of fatigue.
Caffeine Boosting Performance – More Research
More recent research performed in a controlled laboratory setting showed that the ingestion of 3-9mg of caffeine per kilogram (kg) of body weight (bw) 1 hour prior to exercise, resulted in an increased level of performance in running and cycling. In real terms, 3mg per kg/bw would equate to approximately 2 cups of coffee.
There is still a lack of a conclusive theory to describe the observed ergogenic effects associated with caffeine consumption. Glycogen sparing does occur after caffeine ingestion (5-9mg per kg/bw) in the early stages of submaximal exercise. Supplementing caffeine at a low dosage (3mg per kg/bw) does not have any supporting evidence for a metabolic component responsible for enhancing physical performance.
Recommendations for Athletes
Are you interested in caffeine boosting performance? Here are a few tips that may help you maximize the benefits.
- Ingest caffeine about 3 – 4 hours before the competition. Although blood levels of caffeine peak much sooner, the maximum caffeine effect on fat stores appears to occur several hours after peak blood levels.
- Consider decreasing or abstaining from caffeine for 3 – 4 days prior to competition. This allows for tolerance to caffeine to decrease and helps ensure a maximum effect of caffeine. Be careful though, because some may experience caffeine withdrawal.
- Make sure that you have used caffeine extensively under a variety of training conditions and are thoroughly familiar with how your body reacts to this drug. Never try anything new on race day.
- What happens if your urine test is above the current cutoff? You will have to accept the consequences.
Caffeine Side Effects
There’s known benefits of caffeine boosting performance, especially in endurance exercise. Yet individual results may vary greatly. Differences in metabolism, diet, and frequency of caffeine use are some of the factors that can determine how an individual will react to caffeine. Additionally, some athletes may actually experience a decrease in performance, usually due to the side effects of caffeine.
Although caffeine does not appear to significantly alter water balance or body temperature during exercise, dehydration is a potential concern because caffeine is a mild diuretic. Some athletes may also experience abdominal cramps and diarrhea related to the large intestine contractions caused by caffeine. The combination of dehydration and cramping can have particularly detrimental effects on performance.