Coffee undoubtedly is the most popular and most consumed beverage everywhere in the world, and caffeine, one of the most available supplements. In addition to coffee, caffeine is also found in numerous tea varieties and caffeinated drinks. Caffeine, (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine, when in its chemically pure form, is a legal neural stimulant. The structure of caffeine is often changed in order to increase both mental and physical performance.
The molecule has been discovered in 1819by Friedlieb Runge, but it was the work of Costill et al, which was the one to brought the benefits of caffeine to prominence. This research has been the first to prove the incredible increase in athletes’ endurance and Time to Exhaustion (TTE) after consuming it. That is how the era of supplementing with caffeine began.
How does caffeine function?
It seems that the major benefits of caffeine consumption is the change in how a person percepts the pain.
The “rate of perceived exertion” is significantly reduced, while the work intensity, the total work that is done, and time to exhaustion. Simply, exercising feels a lot easier. This happens thanks to the caffeine’s possibility to bind with adenosine receptors in the muscles. The moment the adenosine binds with the receptors, the resulting reaction is triggering increase in one’s pain perception, and making the actual work feel much harder and also increasing the chances to stop exercising.
Caffeine is the familiar antagonist to adenosine, meaning that it works against it. It’s able to bind to the receptors, substituting the adenosine, which in turn prevents the increase of the pain levels. Basically, the caffeine doesn’t change the intensity or difficulty of the exercise, but just the way we perceive the pain while we are exercising. As we mentioned before, this is what makes caffeine an extremely powerful stimulant for the Central Nervous System and it has been proven to improve decision making, alertness, and cognitive processing, especially when a person is exposed to extreme stress or fatigue. Studies which were made on some elite military units, revealed that after prolonged sleep deprivation, the caffeine consumption is able to increase both mental and physical performance.
Those persons who do ultra-marathons, triathlons and iron man races will find this very interesting, because it suggests that their endurance could be significantly improved after the caffeine consumption. Caffeine supplementing has been connected to increased circulation of adrenaline, which is able to promote greater free fatty acid availability and also to increase the utilization of fats like an energy source (lipolysis) when someone is training at sub-maximal intensity. The levels of plasma beta-endorphin are increased as well, which again decreases the perception of the pain.
Additionally, the caffeine should increase the availability of calcium in the sarcoplasmic reticulum, and that could result in an increased capacity for excitation / contraction at muscle fiber level. That means that one will be able to contract the muscle fibers in a much forceful manner, which is definitely a bonus when one is trying to, for example, get up from the bottom of some especially heavy squat.
Should you drink caffeine before exercising?
It has been showed that caffeine is very beneficial for endurance sports like running and cycling, intermittent team sports like rugby and football, intermittent sports as tennis and high-intensity sprints running 90-180 seconds (500m, 900m).
Unfortunately, the studies weren’t so conclusive in regards to power and strength athletes. As it was previously mentioned, the effects of the caffeine on the availability of calcium in the sarcoplasmic reticulum, which is where the sliding filaments are located, theoretically would make caffeine very beneficial for the explosive lifting. On this point research is still contradictory. There have been various studies to conclude that performance has been improved, while just as many have not and there were even some that have discovered that caffeine consumption has even a negative impact.
Moreover, studies proved something peculiar, which is that caffeine seems to have a much greater impact on those exercises that are involving the upper body than the lower, which is leading researchers to conclude that caffeine supplementation for upper body training sessions is beneficial. In a similar fashion, the caffeine consumption seems to have a greater effect on persons with training experience. Those who take caffeine or who consume caffeinated drinks on a regular basis, don’t develop resistance to caffeine over time, however the acute response to caffeine declines after prolonged exposure, lasting around 3 hours in regular users and 6 hours in non-regular users.
Currently, the general recommendation for caffeine dosages is ranging between 3 to 6 mg per 1kg, 30-60 minutes before you start exercising.
When it comes to caffeine, the rule “the more is better”, does not apply. On the contrary, there have been some studies to suggest that taking more than 10mg per 1kg could be lethal. Although this is highly unlikely and it’s also a huge amount of caffeine to consume, it’s essential to mention that its consumption has to be monitored. Anything above 6mg per 1kg has been proven to have no added positive impact on the training performance on persons and is only unfavorable to your wallet.
Along with needlessly spending more money, the doses above 6 mg per 1kg, were related to inhibition of glycogen phosphorylase, which is the essential enzyme in the metabolism of glycogen. Simply said, you are going to recuperate at a slower and less efficient rate when you finish exercising, with the glycogen deposits not being filled as quickly and completely and with inhibited performance.
What is the most effective form of caffeine?
It’s believed that caffeine is most beneficial and effective when it’s taken in the form of capsules. However, if you like drinking beverages, then one cup of espresso made of good quality ground coffee is your best bet, having 107mg in one cup.
- Instant coffee (60mg in 250ml)
- Red bull (80mg in 250ml)
- Tea (28mg in 250ml)
You may notice that getting the necessary dosage for your body weight is very hard, needing to ingest more than one liter before you meet the required dose. A study suggested that the absorption of caffeine could be affected by the circadian rhythm and that consuming it in the morning could be a lot more beneficial. There wasn’t a lot of research in this area, and that is the reason why more studies are needed before the broad recommendations can be made.
Possible side effects
As we mentioned previously, consuming more than 10mg per kg could be lethal, and that is why you need to avoid over-consumption. Reaction to caffeine varies a lot in persons and some dose might be fine for one person and insufficient or excessive for some other. That’s the reason why supplementing needs to be started at the lowest possible dose and adjusted accordingly.
The “better safe, than sorry” rule perfectly applies here. The possible side effects are dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations and migraines, which is why you have to monitor your body and stop consuming it in case at least one of these occur. If you are just not sure about the symptoms you should always consult with your doctor. Those persons with blood pressure problems, cardiovascular diseases or nervous issues shouldn’t consume caffeine.
In persons that do not suffer from any of the conditions we mentioned above, supplementing with caffeine is thoroughly researched and it was proven to significantly improve the performance. There have been more recent studies to also discover that caffeine is not a diuretic at all, as it was previously believed, meaning that consuming it shouldn’t lead to dehydration, as long as you drink plenty of water. Caffeine is the excellent pre-workout supplement and it needs to be taken before doing endurance or intermittent activities.
- Caffeine assists with endurance, intermittent individual or team sports and sustained-sprinting events.
- The dosage that is suggested is 4-6mg per 1kg, 30-60 minutes before exercise.
- Caffeine was inconclusively shown to help to power/strength athletes, especially the upper body performance.
- if it’s taken in capsules, caffeine seems to be the most effective.
- People who are suffering from high blood pressure, nervous system issues or cardiovascular disease should consult a doctor before they start supplementing with caffeine.
- We suggest you to start consuming it at the lowest dosage that you can and then increase per your body’s needs.
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