Deemed by many as the great equalizer, caffeine is nothing short of amazing. If you’re an adult, there is a good chance that you’re consuming this substance in one form or another.
Standard options include your morning coffee, the afternoon energy drink or the pre-training supplement formula.
Today, we’ll go over why we love caffeine for training, what benefits it offers, and what you need to keep in mind. Let’s dive in…
Caffeine: Don’t Miss Out On This Ergogenic Delight
Caffeine is fantastic because it’s proven itself to work in countless studies. In the context of training, studies find that caffeine improves our strength, power, endurance, and motivation.
For instance, research finds that caffeine stimulates fat-burning, which can have a sparing effect on glycogen and allow us to get more energy from fatty acids (1, 2). This could explain how caffeine improves endurance performance in athletes (3).
Research also finds that caffeine has a potent effect on the motor cortex, which plays a vital role in muscle activation (4). This is one reason why caffeine appears to improve strength and power output. For instance, in one study, subjects that took caffeine were able to lift more weight and produce more power (5). A meta-analysis from 2010 suggested that caffeine primarily improves strength in the knee extensors (6).
Caffeine shows a lot of promise for athletic performance thanks to its unique and varied effects on the body. Besides its impact on the nervous system, caffeine appears to have profound physiological effects on cell signaling, muscle activation, fat metabolism, and more.
Some Potential Drawbacks of Caffeine
As the old saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” While impressive, caffeine also carries some drawbacks, which we cannot overlook.
Most notably, there is the issue of tolerance. As a stimulant, caffeine’s effects are more pronounced if we are sensitive to the substance. The greater the tolerance, the less impactful its effects become. At some point, too much caffeine consumption can make us entirely dependent on the compound to function. We would have to consume large amounts of it just to feel normal (10, 11).
Luckily, there are ways to overcome this issue. Most notably, you can cycle your caffeine. For instance, take it for three weeks and then stop for an entire week. Alternatively, you can take caffeine sparingly. For example, only take it before your most challenging workouts.
Another potential issue with caffeine is the effect it has on our sleep. Research finds that it can prolong the time it takes us to fall asleep (12). For instance, if you take a large dose before working out in the evening, you might find it difficult to fall asleep after that. And, let’s be honest, while fantastic, caffeine’s benefits are not worth it if we lose hours of sleep after that.
We should view caffeine as a tool in our arsenal—one which we can use to elevate our performance and achieve slightly better results in the long run. Of course, for us to enjoy the benefits of caffeine without its drawbacks, we need to respect it and take it mindfully.