Caffeine is one of the major reasons why we drink coffee. this is probably because it helps to improve our concentration, increase our alertness, enhance our cognitive function, as well as keep us awake. But apart from that, many studies have stressed the benefits of caffeine for exercise performance.
However, it is quite unfortunate that a lot of people still condemn the intake of caffeine. In the real sense, it is one of the most socially acceptable ergogenic aids- meaning it help the body to perform well during a workout or any physical activity.
In fact, over 90% of the US population consumes caffeine on a regular basis, and it is a common ingredient in many energy drinks, beverages, foods, and other products like chewing gum, special gels, and pain medications.
You might be wondering, “are there really any benefits of caffeine for exercise performance?” Well, the simple answer is “YES.” There are many ways caffeine give exercisers a boost in energy for performance. You’ll discover that in this article.
What is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant naturally present in some seeds and plants, including coffee and cacao beans.
Historically, people consume caffeine in coffee and tea, but after much research shows that this substance help athletes to perform and train better, many manufacturers now add it to foods and drinks.
It is now common to see professional and amateur athletes taking caffeine as a performance-enhancing “ergogenic” aid for different activities. These include resistance exercises such as weight lifting, endurance exercise such as cycling and running, and intermittent exercises such as racket sports and football.
How does caffeine work?
When you take caffeine, it is absorbed through your stomach and small intestine within 30-44 minutes, and then moves into your bloodstream, the blood levels then peak after about 90-100 minutes after consuming and it remains high for another 3-4 hours before it starts to drop.
As caffeine is metabolized, it produces compounds that stimulate the nervous system (including the muscle, heart, and other organs).
Not only that, but these compounds also influence vasodilation, decreasing airway constriction in the lungs. This way, the lungs are open up for ventilation.
That being said, caffeine affects cells throughout the body, including the muscle cells and brain. That’s why it is different from substances and supplements.
In summary, caffeine has the following effects on the body, including:
• It activates areas of the brain and nervous system to improve energy and focus while reducing tiredness.
• It boosts the body’s ability to breakdown fat in fat cells
• It stimulates the production of adrenaline- the hormone responsible for the “fight or flight” response.
• It impacts the motor cortex- the part of the brain that signals muscle activation.
• It also triggers the production of β-endorphins, which can give you the “euphoric” feeling.
• It helps to preserve carb stores due to continuous fat burning. This helps to enhance endurance performance.
• It increases heat production or body temperature, which may help you burn more calories.
Benefits of Caffeine for Endurance Performance
Apart from a finely tuned nutritional program, lots of endurance athletes have found caffeine and coffee to be beneficial for performance.
One study shows that 9/8mg/lb of caffeine enhanced the level of endurance in athletes and helped them move 1.3-2 miles more than the placebo group.
Another study compared the effect of caffeine and carbs on cyclists. In the end, caffeine was shown to increase workload by 7.4% compared to 5.2% in the group that consumed carbs.
However, a recent study combined carbs and caffeine, and the result showed a boost in performance by 9% in relation to water alone.
Benefits of Caffeine for Strength exercise
Caffeine is not only beneficial for endurance performance. Some studies have also shown that this substance may help in strength or power-based activities. But the evidence is still not conclusive.
A comparison of 27 studies show that caffeine has no effect on small muscle groups but may help to improve leg muscle by up to 7%.
Another study found caffeine to have a good effect on the bench press, but no significance to cycling sprints and lower body strength.
In general, recent studies clearly indicate that caffeine shows a positive effect on power-based activities that require the use of large muscle groups, circuits, or repetitions.
Benefits of Caffeine for High-Intensity Exercise
Caffeine has a huge benefit for trained athletes on high-intensity exercises.
A study on competitive athletes who took caffeine showed a significant improvement in power while making a series of bike sprints.
Two groups of swimmers, including the trained and untrained, respectively, were also observed for the effect of caffeine. The result of this showed a significant improvement in the trained group.
How to supplement with Caffeine for Exercise
There are some few things to note before supplementing with caffeine
Firstly, you may experience less benefit from supplements if you often consume coffee, dark chocolates, or soda. The reason is that your body can develop a resistance to caffeine with time.
However, you can derive the most benefit from caffeine anhydrous for your exercise performance.
You need to understand that the dosage of caffeine is based on body weight. The recommended dosage is set around 1.4-2.7 mg per lb of body weight (3-6mg per kg). This is about 400 mg for most people a day, although some studies advice 600-900mg.
Irrespective of what you chose, always ensure to start slow, at about 150-200mg a day to determine your body’s tolerance. Then you can increase the dose up to 400 accordingly to enjoy the performance benefit.
But even when there are lots of benefits of caffeine for exercise performance, always try to save them for key races or events to avoid insensitivity to its effects.
Please remember that overdosing on caffeine can cause some unpleasant side effects, including:
• Stomach irritation,
But, when you take a sensible dose of caffeine, you will enjoy numerous benefits with little to no side effect.
Caffeine and fat loss
Another popular benefit caffeine has been linked to is fat loss. You may have noticed caffeine is in a number of fat burner pills/drink supplements. This is for two main reasons.
Firstly, because caffeine works by blocking adenosine, caffeine increases the firing of neurons and release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. This, in turn, makes you feel more energized and awake. So by consuming caffeine it could actually make you more active in times where you would normally be tired. Therefore, burning more calories and losing fat.