There are many theories on the effects of caffeine, mainly within the fitness universe. This is a controversial substance, not only due to the opinions on its real impact during physical activity, but also due to the possibility that it may cause physical addiction. Caffeine isn’t only for the sleepy ones. Some people point out that caffeine is a dangerous stimulant because of the addiction it creates and don’t really explore its potential. On the other hand, there are people who see its positive effects, rather than the cons, making it a strong ally to increase performance during workouts or competitions. As with any other supplement, you should take with moderation. Learn how to get the best from your supplements: the trick is to cycle its intake.
In 2004, caffeine was removed from the WADAS’S (World Anti-Doping Agency) list of forbidden substances. Its ingestion was then allowed for any athlete whose goal is to improve sports performance, without the risk of being punished.
However, there are still a few questions on its advantages. Get to know the benefits and the reasons why you should consider using a caffeine supplement.
1. Improves speed and resistance.
When taken before working out, caffeine raises adrenaline, but more important, it stimulates the central nervous system and thus increases your threshold for pain during a resistance workout. British investigators have found that an athlete who eats a protein bar with about 100mg of caffeine can improve his performance up to 25%. The same doesn’t happen with a similar bar, but that has no caffeine in it. Other studies show that caffeine has a positive impact in speed, because it improves the sprint of those who eat it. It can also speed up recovery (a study showed that isotonic drinks with caffeine can increase your glycogen storages up to 65% more than drinks that contain no caffeine). They have the bad reputation of contributing to dehydration, but you’ve got nothing to worry about, because the serving needs to be higher than 550mg for the diuretic effect to take place.
a) Some studies indicate that taking caffeine 60 minutes before working out (in order to guarantee its absorption by the body) or 15-30 minutes before exercising, promotes an equal increase in performance.
b) The servings that are normally used by athletes vary between 2-6mg/kg of body weight.
c) At least when it comes to endurance sports, caffeine can be used during the exercise or immediately before the feeling of fatigue takes place. The intake of 2 to 3mg/kg of body weight is enough to get the caffeine’s ergogenic effect. Servings that go over 6mg/kg do not bring any additional benefits, giving way to secondary effects. On the contrary; high servings may cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and the appearance of other common secondary effects: insomnia, headaches, anxiety, addiction or even gastrointestinal problems.
d) Taking into account the variation of the answer to the caffeine dosage (because it’ll depend on how used your body is to this substance) it is recommended that each athlete tests the most adequate amount to his/her physical condition.
e) Some studies have demonstrated that caffeine supplements may improve performance in several sports, including the ones that involve endurance, non-stop sports (group sports of sports like tennis) and high-intensity activities, with the duration of 1 to 60 minutes (like swimming, rowing, medium and long distance running).
2. Helps with weight loss.
Although it does not burn calories, caffeine increases the adrenaline during physical exercise. This will make you work out with more intensity and increase your resistance level. As a consequence, it will allow you to work out for longer and to be able to burn more calories. The caffeine’s may function is to be in contact with the fat cell’s receptors, making It more efficient if you take it before working out.
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3. Delays fatigue and muscle exhaustion.
Adenosine is the neurotransmitter that’s responsible for the delivery of information of tiredness to the brain and for decreasing the activity. When caffeine occupies space in the adenosine brain cells, it keeps the brain from getting tiredness information and keeps you alert and increases your focus. Caffeine also helps your blood vessels to relax, once it blocks the adenosine’s ability to dilate them. With caffeine blocking the adenosine, the brain cell’s activity increases. The hypophysis realizes that all of this activity is happening and thinks that some type of emergency is occurring, so it releases hormones that make the adrenal glands produce adrenaline. Caffeine increases focus for large periods of time. On the other hand, one of its secondary effects is sleep deprivation, so it is not recommended to take it late at night.
You can find caffeine in several drinks like coffee (a cup of coffee has, on average, 100mg of caffeine), green and black tea (25-40mg per 250ml), soda (approximately 40mg per can) and energy drinks; also in foods like dark chocolate (10-50mg per 60g) and milk chocolate (10-15mg per 60g).
Stephanie Lee, Grounds For Debate: The Truths About Coffee, April 2014, translation and adaptation of the original version
Lygia Haydée, A cafeína ajuda a carregar as baterias, January 2012, translation and adaptation of the original version
N/d, Cafeína: o suplemento para todas as modalidades?, Jornal I, January 2014, translation and adaptation of the original version