The aroma of brewed coffee and your iPhone jerks you from a deep slumber. It’s your gym wake up call. After a weekend of indulgence, you may not be full of beans so should you be drinking them? In this week’s article, I espress my views on caffeine and exercise.
These days we typically consume caffeine as tea, coffee, chocolate, cola and energy drinks. The amount of caffeine in each source can vary dramatically. An energy drink has roughly the same amount of caffeine as instant coffee. A cup of tea has half as much caffeine again.
Research shows that coffee is not all froth without perks. Trained athletes who consume caffeine pre-exercise burn about 15% more calories. The dose that triggers this effect is 4.5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. For the average person that’s roughly one cup of espresso or a cup of tea.
Caffeine at the gym may benefit you in several ways. It’s been shown to improve circulation which means more oxygen to your muscles and improved performance. Caffeine may also reduce your perceived pain level which allows you to lift more and push harder during exercise.
One study showed that caffeine prior to exercise may benefit endurance. The result of a combination of carbohydrate and caffeine was shown to increase muscle glycogen providing more energy to exercise harder and longer. Caffeine’s also been shown to improve memory and focus.
When you perk up and head to the gym there are a few things to give a frappe about. If you’re exercising in a hot climate then caffeine will increase your risk of dehydration. It has the potential to increase heart rate, impair or alter fine motor control and technique. It can also result in over arousal which may interfere with recovery and sleep.
Consuming large amounts of caffeine – more than 500mg per day – is generally discouraged by health professionals. Also, remember that if you’re feeling fatigued it might be wise to look at the source of your tiredness. It could be over- exercising, poor diet or inadequate sleep.
Caffeine tolerance can vary depending on your genes, size, gender and activity level. It’s important to try and find the lowest effective dose of caffeine that will enhance your performance. Always, have your caffeine 1 hour prior to exercise and have about 1-4 mg/kg weight.
Trial caffeine before you use it for a competition. Start with a low dose as it may cause anxiety, gut problems, headaches or irritability. You may also benefit from taking caffeine before, during or after an event. Caffeine for competitions is better taken as an energy gel or tablet.
Remember, to be consistent with your caffeine intake. Research shows that when your daily caffeine intake remains the same your body adjusts to counteract dehydration. Make sure you still drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and watch any added sugar in your caffeine drinks.
Caffeine when used judiciously can really motivate you and improve performance. Procaffeinating before the gym will make your training game strong. I recommend you just brew it.