Coffee, a delicious drink and the world's most popular stimulant.
Coffee is the most popular beverage in the world, with more than 400 billion cups consumed each year. More than 450 million cups of coffee are consumed in the United States every day. But how and why do people use caffeine around the workout window? What are the benefit? What are the downsides?
WHAT IS CAFFEINE?
Caffeine is a stimulant commonly found in drinks like Coffee & Tea. It is used to exert energising effects on our bodies nervous system. Although found naturally occurring in coffee and tea, the effects of caffeine is that performance boosting that we have now created products such as energy drinks, pre workouts and fat burners that contain synthetic caffeine. But why have these products become so popular?
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Caffeine is one of the most backed performance enhancing drugs, and it is one of the few permitted in sports. But why is your morning coffee giving you the ability to perform at a higher level.
Experts believe that caffeine may protect your glycogen stores in your body, allowing you to have more energy for your workout.
Caffeine around the training window can increase feelings of physical strength, allowing you to push your limits that little bit further and gain more from your workouts. It also allows you to go for longer during your workout, with scientists finding it reduces the feeling of exertion.
HOW MUCH CAFFEINE SHOULD YOU CONSUME?
The daily recommended allowance for caffeine consumption for healthy adults is around 400 milligrams a day or about four or five cups of coffee, as an amount not generally associated with dangerous, negative effects. However, there is wide variation in both how sensitive people are to the effects of caffeine and how fast they metabolize caffeine. The ideal dose for individuals is usually around 3mg/kg of body weight for a low dose or up to 6mg/kg of bodyweight consumed up to 60 min prior to exercise.
Higher doses of 9mg/kg of bodyweight has shown no improvement in performance but obviously increased side effects such as nausea, anxiety, insomnia etc. Women who are pregnant should limit their intake of caffeinated drinks to max 200mg/day because it can lead to babies having low birth weight and increase the risk of miscarriage .
It's also worth noting that caffeine has a half life of 5-6 hours. So If you consume 250mg at 12pm at 6pm there would be around 125mg still in your body and at midnight there is still going to be around 62.5mg in your system. So make sure you time it properly so that your caffeine consumption today doesn't end up affecting tomorrow's energy levels due to a poor night's sleep!
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Caffeine is quickly absorbed from the gut and into the bloodstream. It then travels to the liver where it is broken down.The amount found in one cup of coffee can take as little as 20 minutes to reach the bloodstream and about 1 hour to reach full effectiveness.
Caffeine's main effects are on the brain, by blocking the effects of adenosine. Adenosine levels build up during the day and by connecting caffeine to the receptors without activating adenosine, it stops you feeling as tired.
It also increases blood adrenaline levels and brain activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine.
IS IT A GOOD FAT BURNER?
While caffeine itself is not known to have any fat burning side effects directly, it is often seen in a lot of fat loss pills. The reason for this is it will increase our NEAT (None Extrinsic Activity Thermogenesis - Blog coming on this soon). In short NEAT is the calories our body burns as we go about our day. Caffeine, through giving us a boost of energy, can make our body move a bit more, whether that's the energy to go on a walk, a twitchy leg or just general shakes. This in turn will make our NEAT go up and burn more calories.
SO IS CAFFEINE OUR FRIEND OR OUR ENEMY?
Unfortunately like most supplements its person dependant, you have to consider; your goal, your desired effect of the supplement and also your personal tolerance to it. The best thing to do is try it in a low dose like a coffee (most people will have anyway) and then assess the effect from there. Natural caffeine sources tend to be better for those with anxiety and often come with health benefits of the drink i.e Green Tea has a lot of antioxidants in it as well as natural caffeine. If you're looking for real performance enhancing effects maybe try a Pre workout or something like a can of Monster Energy will do the trick!
All in all, when used right caffeine can be a great tool!