The first step toward a great athletic performance is building your strength. You start off by following a strict, well-balanced diet and undergo regular training to perform well. But with the increasing competition, there’s a constant need to look for ways to get better and better at your performance.
Nutritional products and supplements like protein powders or an energy shake boost your ability in a way that cannot be achieved with just training or a controlled diet. But, what if just a cup of coffee before your training could give you this boost? That’s right! Studies show that caffeine can improve both physical and mental performance. Here are 5 ways caffeine may help improve your athletic performance.
1. Reduces Pain During Exercise
Taking caffeine about 60 min before a particular exercise might reduce any pain felt while exercising. A study involving 11 cyclists reported that the pain felt during 90 min of cycling was significantly reduced in hot environments when the participants took 3 mg/kg of caffeine.1 On the downside, this was not beneficial in cold environments.
Caffeine might improve the training capacity of athletes by reducing pain, depending on the environment. However, it is important to keep a check on the dosage to avoid adverse effects.
2. Tones Down Post-Workout Pain
Athletes who go through intense training often experience post-workout pain. To control this muscle pain, you probably turn to aspirin or ibuprofen. However, a recent study shows that moderate doses of caffeine may bring down post-workout pain by up to 50%.2
According to the study by the University of Georgia, volunteers who had moderate doses of caffeine (about 2 cups of coffee) an hour before their resistance training experienced reduced muscle soreness by 48%. Researchers say that caffeine works by blocking the body’s receptors for adenosine – a chemical released in response to inflammation.
However, there are a few limitations to the study. The study only involved women, so the same effects cannot be established for men. Also, since the volunteers were not regular caffeine users, the results may not be applicable to those who drink caffeine on a daily basis.
3. Heals Muscles Faster
Muscles require glycogen, a form of glucose, for energy production. When you workout, glycogen levels get depleted and you feel extreme fatigue and may experience a complete energy loss. Studies report that caffeine, when ingested with carbohydrates, increases muscle glycogen post high-intensity exercises.3 This helps the muscles heal faster after a workout. So, caffeine with a carbohydrate-rich diet may help build muscles much faster than carbohydrates alone.
4. Delays Exhaustion
Several studies show that a cup of coffee or moderate caffeine intake can improve mental and physical alertness.
- A 75 mg serving of caffeine has been demonstrated to increase attentiveness, but a higher caffeine intake does not necessarily increase the degree of alertness.4
- Healthy individuals who drank coffee (75 mg and 100 mg) have been seen to exhibit a sustained performance throughout the day.5
- Volunteers who ingested a 175-mg caffeinated drink have been able to perform a greater number of repetitions than they could without the drink.6
Thus, it can be concluded that caffeine consumption in moderate amounts might help increase alertness and mood and also delay post-training exhaustion.
5. Promotes Weight Loss
Caffeine may increase the metabolic rate, which is essential to burn fat. Research suggests that caffeine stimulates the nervous system, which sends signals to break down fat.7 The effect of caffeine on metabolism along with exercise can increase the fat-burning process, thereby promoting weight loss. However, this effect on weight loss may not be permanent as people develop a tolerance toward caffeine, hindering weight loss. Also, there is a lack of substantial evidence to prove that caffeine can help with weight loss in the long term.
While there are enough studies backing caffeine’s ability to improve athletic performance, more evidence is required to disprove the limitations. Also, since the effects of coffee as your source of caffeine are debatable, a cup a joe might not work.
Care must be taken if you are using caffeine as your performance booster because high doses (above 400 mg) may cause anxiety attacks, make you feel jittery, disturb the normal sleep cycle, and increase heart rate. To keep things safe, experiment with low or moderate doses of caffeine during training and see if it works. Know that the results may vary from person to person.
|↑1||Ganio, Matthew S., Evan C. Johnson, Rebecca M. Lopez, Rebecca L. Stearns, Holly Emmanuel, Jeffrey M. Anderson, Douglas J. Casa, Carl M. Maresh, Jeff S. Volek, and Lawrence E. Armstrong. “Caffeine lowers muscle pain during exercise in hot but not cool environments.” Physiology & behavior 102, no. 3 (2011): 429-435.|
|↑2||UGA study finds that caffeine cuts post-workout pain by nearly 50 percent. University of Georgia.|
|↑3||Post-exercise caffeine helps muscles refuel. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).|
|↑4||Caffeine and mental alertness – part 1. Coffee&Health.|
|↑5||Hindmarch, I., U. Rigney, N. Stanley, P. Quinlan, J. Rycroft, and J. Lane. “A naturalistic investigation of the effects of day-long consumption of tea, coffee and water on alertness, sleep onset and sleep quality.” Psychopharmacology 149, no. 3 (2000): 203-216.|
|↑6||Duncan, Michael J., Mike Smith, Kathryn Cook, and Rob S. James. “The acute effect of a caffeine-containing energy drink on mood state, readiness to invest effort, and resistance exercise to failure.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 26, no. 10 (2012): 2858-2865.|
|↑7||Kim, Tae-Wook, Young-Oh Shin, Jeong-Beom Lee, Young-Ki Min, and Hun-Mo Yang. “Effect of caffeine on the metabolic responses of lipolysis and activated sweat gland density in human during physical activity.” Food Science and Biotechnology 19, no. 4 (2010): 1077-1081.|