What is the one thing 90% of people can’t get through a day without? That’s right! COFFEE! According to sources, “an American drinks drinks 3.1 cups of coffee per day” as well as “Americans consuming about 400 million cups of coffee daily”. That’s a ton of coffee. But in this article we want to focus on the other ‘C’ word of interest; that word is caffeine. More importantly, the positive impact caffeine can have in relation to your workout. We’ll first get a basic understanding of what caffeine is, then go over 3 reasons why caffeine is beneficial to exercise. Let’s dive in.
What Is Caffeine & How Does It Work?
Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant that is naturally found in various plants, kola nuts, guarana berries, and the infamous coffee bean. Furthermore, it can be found in several other plants as well as beings synthetically made as raw powder form. Once ingested, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, through the liver, then spreads its effect through the body, with its main target being the brain. Without diving too deep into biochemistry and anatomy, caffeine works by inhibiting the effects of a neurotransmitter adenosine, who’s prime role is to relax the brain and build your level of exhaustion through the course of the day. Blocking these receptors, causes you not to feel as tired, as well as delaying your increasing levels of exhaustion. It’s other, more well known action is to increase adrenaline levels and activity of both dopamine and norepinephrine, which deal with heightened senses, stimulation and clarity.
According to sources, caffeine’s effects can be felt within 10-20 minutes of ingestion, with peak levels centering around 30-60 minutes. Most exercise timings focus on taking a dose of caffeine 30-60 minutes prior to the start of your lift. Common beverages that contain caffeine include, but are not limited to, coffee, tea, energy drinks, certain soft drinks, and supplementary drinks.
Now that we covered a basic understanding of caffeine, here are 3 reasons why caffeine is beneficial to exercise:
1. Caffeine Enhances Your Metabolism
Caffeine has been known to help boost our body’s metabolic rate in the short term. A byproduct of an elevated metabolism is our increased fat burning effect. First however, we must understand what our metabolism is. Metabolism is the process that focuses on converting nutrition, into expendable energy that our bodies utilize to function. Thus, as stated before, having an increased metabolic level, can increase our fat burning. According to an Oxford study, metabolic rates were “increased significantly” for the subjects during the 3 hour period post caffeine ingestion. Content was set at 8mg of caffeine/kg of body weight. Furthermore, the “thermic effect” of the meal after coffee was heightened as well. Thermic effect of food (TEF) relates to how much energy is required to break down and digest certain macro-nutrients. Higher thermic effects equate to higher expenditure of energy, or as many know, calories.
Moral: Caffeine enhances your metabolic rate, and in turn, fat burning, but to a modest degree, and only in the short term.
2. Caffeine Helps Elevate Aerobic & Anaerobic Performance
Caffeine is linked to helping boost not only aerobic performance such as long duration endurance focused training, but also more strength and power focused training. According to a sports medicine study, while caffeine “does not improve maximal oxygen capacity directly..it can assist in greater power output and train longer”. Another stated that “caffeine significantly enhanced” strength output in the subject’s workout routine. These studies also both show that fatigue is offset to a certain degree when training is paired with pre-caffeine consumption.
Moral: While it is a modest effect, caffeine can help promote aerobic and anaerobic performance, as well as delaying fatigue.
3. Caffeine Promotes Mental Clarity
While this last one may be more personally attributable and impacting, I still feel as it’s important to note. As mentioned earlier, being a stimulant that it is, our central nervous system is directly affected by this, which in turn, impacts our cognitive and mental ability. Caffeine has a positive impact on memory, overall cognition and concentration. With these attributes in a heightened state, your workout may feel more ‘focused’ or ‘productive’ then without caffeine. Speaking for myself here, I can feel the difference of focus in my workouts with caffeine. I feel a higher degree of proprioception, or awareness of one’s position and movement of the body. Having greater focus, leads to a more productive session, which in turn, leads to greater gains towards my goal.
Moral: While subjective, caffeine can promote mental clarity and focus during a workout.
To sum up, the 3 reasons why caffeine is beneficial to exercise include a metabolic, performance, and clarity boost. While these may all be short term oriented as stated, they still provide a slight gain for your overall fitness that you may lack out on without. To finish, remember that caffeine is still considered a drug; one that is very addictive. All of these benefits are only acquired through moderate and appropriate usage. Stay safe and try having a dose of caffeine prior to your next workout!
Thanks for reading and I hope you were able to take something away from this post! If you enjoyed it, please leave a like and share it to others! Much love!