Caffeine: The Elixir of Life… and Gains

Science news articles have bombarded readers with the benefits of caffeine for years. The molecule has proven benefits for mood, memory, and reduces the risk of many types of diseases when consumed moderately. Caffeine’s effects are so pronounced that it was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency until 2004 (most athletes can now sip freely, but some regulation agencies vary in this regard). So where does this ancient miracle molecule come from?

Many plants produce caffeine (yerba mate plant, guarana berries, cocoa, coffee trees, to name a few) as a natural pesticide that wards off non-pollenating insects. (17) It has been used by humans since before recorded history, and is steeped in cultures across time and continents. Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu called caffeinated tea “the elixir of life.” The aspects of caffeine that make its psychoactive effects indispensible to philosophers and college students alike can also help athletes.

The caffeine molecule itself isn’t giving you energy but rather blocking receptors in your brain that signal to you that you’re tired, which has obvious benefits for athletes. The benefits of caffeine have been proven to boost performance in endurance athletes, strength competitions, sprinters, weightlifters, and also decreases the rate of perceived fatigue. (18) After consuming moderate amounts of caffeine, subjects have experienced improved circulation, less pain, muscle preservation, and also improved availability of glycogen stores for muscles. (19)


So how can athletes benefit from caffeine without overdoing it?

1. Only use an amount that will enhance performance and no more, or else side effects such as reduced coordination and jitters could reduce the benefits. This maximum amount is up to 6mg per kg body weight (usually about one cup of coffee).

2. Don’t use unhealthy sugary drinks or overload the milk and sugar, and balance your intake with a nutritious snack so you’re not exercising without energy stores.

3. Also, try to be consistent with your intake so your body adjusts to the dosage and doesn’t get dehydrated.

4. Speaking of dehydration, don’t forget to continue drinking water to balance the diuretic nature of caffeine. (It increases urination.)

5. Time your workout so that your pre-workout boost won’t interfere with sleep. Normally your body needs at least six hours before caffeine has been processed enough to allow the body to rest.

By Jodie Davis, Fixt Movement Intern


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