Workouts & Nutrition

Flat White or Flat Workout? How Caffeine Effects Exercise.

So many of us swear by our morning caffeine hit to get us up, out the door and on the way to our gym session. The good news is that it could be helping your workout as well. Zap Nutritionist Melanie Marino takes a ‘shot’ at explaining the highs and lows that come with your morning latte.

It’s Monday morning and I am jerked from a deep slumber to the sound of my iPhone and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. It’s my ZAP wake up call. I briefly reflect on the indulgences from the weekend and my waning enthusiasm.

I make the decision that caffeine may be the only way to endure my workout. If I decide to have my vice and hit the ground running with some caffeine will this affect my performance? Is it even bad for my healthC

These days we typically consume caffeine as tea, coffee, chocolate, cola and energy drinks. The amount of caffeine in each source can vary dramatically. Even the caffeine content of the latte you buy from your local café can differ from the one down the road due to the type of coffee beans used. A standard cup of tea typically contains less than half the amount of caffeine of a typical cup of instant coffee.

So is your coffee all froth and no perks when it comes to exercise? A recent study found that trained athletes who took in caffeine pre-exercise burned about 15% more calories for three hours post-exercise. The dose that triggered the effect was 4.5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. For a 68kg woman that’s roughly 300 mg of caffeine, which is probably the amount you are sipping on each morning.

So what does that mean if you’re at the gym? Based on research caffeine at the gym may benefit you in many ways. Caffeine has been shown to improve circulation which means more oxygen to your muscles and better performance. Caffeine may also reduce your perceived pain level which may allow you to push that bit harder during workouts.

Another recent study published showed that caffeine post-exercise may be particularly beneficial for endurance. The result of a combination of carbohydrate and caffeine was shown to increase muscle glycogen giving you more energy to exercise harder and longer. It has also been well shown that caffeine improves your memory and focus.

Before you head full of beans to your next work out there are still some things to be cautious of. If you are exercising in a hot climate then caffeine is not recommended due to the risk of dehydration. At higher levels of intake caffeine has the potential to cause increases in heart rate, impairments or alterations of fine motor control and technique and over-arousal. This can interfere with recovery and sleep patterns.

Long term intake of large amounts of caffeine – more than 500mg per day – are generally discouraged by health professionals. Also, remember that if you are feeling fatigued it might be wise to look at the source of your tiredness. It could be over exercising, poor diet or inadequate sleep.

It is important to try and find the lowest effective dose of caffeine that can be used to achieve a performance enhancement. If you are thinking of fueling using caffeine then have your caffeine 1 hour prior to working out. Tolerance depends on the individual but 2-6 mg/kg weight (no more than 9mg/kg) is adequate.

Remember to be consistent with your coffee intake. Research shows when your caffeine intake is consistent that your body adjusts to counteract dehydration. Make sure you also drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and watch any added sugar in your caffeine drinks.

So it seems your morning coffee could definitely benefit your workout at ZAP. I’m off to have some water and an early night to give the gym another shot tomorrow.

From @zap_fit