Every day, 90% of Americans ingest trimethylxanthine. It’s become our society’s drug of choice and it’s completely legal! It’s even considered good for you by many? How do you get it? Run down to your local convenience store and buy yourself a cup of coffee.
Trimethylxanthine, better referred to as caffeine, is known to improve many things, including our ability to sustain a workout. It’s obvious that caffeine benefits cardio related sports such as running and cycling. It produces energy because it elevates the number of fatty acids circulating in the bloodstream, allowing athletes to perform at high endurance levels for longer amounts of time. In studies done on elite athletes, researchers found that two out of three athletes had caffeine in their system prior to or during completion (Del Coso et. al, 2011). Less research exists on how caffeine affects athletes in other sports, such as bodybuilding. Clearly there are experts on both sides of the fence that have differing opinions as to whether caffeine is beneficial for bodybuilders, but recent research seems to greatly support the use of caffeine in moderation.
The key benefits of caffeine:
Caffeine not only allows you to work out harder, it can also aid in allowing you to work out longer. This is primarily due to the fact that, “During exercise, the body uses a form of starch called glycogen for energy. But once these stores are depleted— perhaps toward the end of a long workout— the body starts to feel like it’s running on empty. Caffeine slows glycogen depletion by encouraging the body to use more fat as fuel.” (Tarnopolsky, 1994). Longer workouts of the same intensity as compared to a shorter workout burn more calories and build more muscle allowing for quicker gains in performance.
No pain, more gain. When the body begins to feel pain its natural reaction is to reduce it. Many athletes utilize over the counter medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen to alleviate pain. Caffeine has been shown to have an even greater effect on reducing pain. Scientists from the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) presented studies at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2007 meeting that showed when subjects were give caffeine as opposed to aspirin and or a placebo on different occasions, they were able to do more bicep curls and leg extensions with less pain (Journal of Pain, 2003).
When the body is working to recover it needs to refill glycogen stores in muscle cells.
Having full glycogen stores allows your body to send a signal to the muscles that the stores are adequate; thus, providing energy for recovery and growth. This allows you to be fully prepared for your next workout.
There are number of ways individuals consume caffeine. Caffeine pills have become popular among many people because unlike drinking Starbucks or Redbull, you only consume caffeine when ingesting them. If you are using caffeine, make sure you are not also adding ingredients such as sweeteners and syrups, that take away from your efforts to lean down and build muscle. One potential negative side-effect to consider is that over time the body can become immune to the effects of caffeine. In addition, some people experience sensitivities. It’s been known to cause jitteriness, anxiety, stomachaches and headaches. Those individuals who have this reaction to caffeine should avoid it all together. Timing your caffeine consumption properly will help you utilize it effectively. For best results, consume on days you exercise, immediately before and after your workout for best results. Remember, more does not always mean better. For optimum performance consume a moderate amount, which equates to approximately 0.45–1.36 mg caffeine per lb. body weight.
Del Coso, et al. (2011). “Prevalence of caffeine use in elite athletes following its removal from the World Anti-Doping Agency list of banned substances,” US National Library of Medicine, Camilo Jose Cela University, Madrid, Spain,” 2011 Aug;36(4):555-61. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21854160
Tarnopolsky, M.A. (1994). “Caffeine and endurance performance,” Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Henderson General Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Sports Medicine. Aug;18(2):109-25. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21854160
Gliottoni, R. Motl, R. “Effect of Caffeine on Leg-Muscle Pain During Intense Cycling Exercise: Possible Role of Anxiety Sensitivity” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2008, 18, 103-115. http://web.clas.ufl.edu/users/msscha/PreMed/caffeine_musclepain.pdf