Caffeine is a psychoactive drug that stimulates the central nervous system, and affects the body in numerous ways. It is legal and safe when taken in moderation, and has even been removed from the banned substances list by the International Olympic Committee, notoriously strict on what they will and will not allow athletes to take.
Caffeine is one of the few supplements that gives you immediate benefits, and instantly improves performance. Taking caffeine before exercise can also help you to burn fat and work out longer. Perhaps more importantly, however, are the effects of caffeine on building muscle and increasing strength.
How Does Caffeine Work?
Caffeine works by antagonizing the body’s Adenosine Receptors. Even though you might have just pulled another all-nighter, this fools the body into thinking you have more energy than you actually do. This is also what creates a state of mental alertness and focus at work or the gym.
Adenosine Receptors are your body’s way of measuring how tired you are. Caffeine blocks these receptors to make you feel alert.
Caffeine also works to increase metabolism by releasing glycerol and fatty acids into the blood to be burned as fuel. This can spare glycogen from being used as energy, and seemingly aid in the body’s capacity to store glycogen. Over time your body can develop a tolerance to caffeine, and you will continuously need more to produce the same effects. if you feel like you are developing a tolerance, stay away from it for a few weeks and come back.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2006 revealed the effects of caffeine on increasing strength. The subjects who supplemented with a caffeinated beverage about an hour before training were able to increase their One-Rep Max.
A One-Rep Max is the maximum amount of weight you can lift in one repetition.
Another study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise compared cyclists who consumed an energy bar containing 45 grams of carbs and 100 mg of caffeine with those who ate a bar with the same amount of carbs, and no caffeine. The subjects that took ate the bar containing the caffeine were able to exercise significantly longer.
In the Journal of Applied Physiology, May 2008, a study conducted with trained cyclists showed that ingestion of carbohydrates and caffeine after exercise boosted overall glycogen storage by 60% than with carbohydrates alone.
Caffeine Recommended Dosage
First and foremost it is important to remember that individual tolerances to caffeine may vary. Most pre workout supplements contain 150-300 mg of caffeine per serving. Always start with the lowest dose to assess how you body’s response. To get improved performance benefits of caffeine, take 200-400 mg about an hour before working out. For increased mental alertness in the morning it is ok to take an additional 200-400 mg before breakfast.
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The next time you’re having a slow day at the office or need a quick surge of energy before hitting the gym, remember that you are doing yourself a favor by reaching for that caffeine. It will give you the strength to push through the last few reps of the workout, and help you to stay lean and burn fat.
- Costill DL, Dalsky GP, Fink WJ. Effects of Caffeine ingestion on metabolism and exercise performance. Medicine and Science in Sports. 1978. 10(3):155-8.
- Grahm TE, Spriet LL. Metabolic, catecholamine, and exercise performance responses to various doses of caffeine. Journal of Applied Physiology. 1995. 78(3):867-874.
- T.W. Beck et at.. “The acute effects of a caffeine-containing supplement on strength, muscular endurance, and anaerobic capabilities,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20(3), 506-10,2006
- E. Hogervorst et al, “Caffeine improves physical and cognitive performance during exhaustive exercise,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 40(10):1841-51.2008
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