Caffeine Supplementation For Improving Performance... Is It Worth It?

Time to read: 1.5 min

For years people have been using caffeine to enhance training and performance, due to its highly stimulant properties. Caffeine in its natural form is found in leaves, fruits and seeds of various plants; commonly caffeine is now added to various energy drinks and fizzy drinks.

Caffeine stimulates our central nervous system, giving us a feeling of increased alertness and focus. Typical amounts of caffeine in our daily consumables are as follows;

Red bull can – 75mg

Espresso shot – 64mg

Diet Coca-Cola can – 42mg

Coca-Cola can – 32mg

Cup of tea – 26mg

For many of us, it is simply part of our daily routine, helping us to function better at work, or giving us a handy pick-me-up in the afternoon. But what are the actual effects on training? Let’s look at a few examples below.


1. Improves Endurance Performance

Taking caffeine supplements before an endurance event results in greater performance outcomes than taking a placebo. Some research has demonstrated taking caffeine pre endurance training encourages the body to burn fat for fuel rather than glycogen.


2. Increases Strength Capacities

Caffeine supplements have been shown to improve our motor unit recruitment; basically how many muscle fibres we use in a certain movement or task.

So taking caffeine results in more muscle doing work, resulting in greater strength outputs. However, the effects of caffeine on 1RM testing (maximal lifting tasks) is minimal.


3. Reduces Perceived Level Of Exertion & Pain During Training

Studies have shown caffeine ingestion pre-training causes people to report significantly less pain during exercises compared to a placebo. This is interesting data, given that it doesn’t mean these people were doing any less work, just their perception of how easy the training felt, and how much weight they could lift was adjusted.


So What Does This All Mean?

Research demonstrates a significant amount of variation between responses of individuals to caffeine and exercise. This could be due to the amounts people consume regularly making them more tolerant to caffeine in their body, possibly resulting in lesser effects. Additionally a person’s training status can affect how much caffeine can enhance their performance.

Much of the research into caffeine and performance enhancements is done on competitive, highly trained athletes. Further investigation is needed on the use of caffeine supplements for the weekend warrior or occasional gym go-er.

However, the evidence seems strong enough to suggest if you do want a performance boost, no matter your training status or experience, caffeine is worth a try.

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