Caffeine is a performance-enhancing supplement backed by abundant scientific evidence. These are the evidence-based reasons I just about always have caffeine before a workout:
- Caffeine reduces the effect of DOMS. This post-exercise muscle soreness which makes us grimace every time we sit on the toilet after leg day is reduced when caffeine is consumed prior to a workout. A study found DOMS to be less intense on day two and three post-training compared to the placebo group who didn’t have caffeine before training.
- Caffeine reduces your RPE. Sorry there are lots of acronymous in sport science aren’t there. RPE stands for ‘rate of perceived exertion’. This is how hard it feels like you’re working. Caffeine makes it feel like you’re not working as hard as you actually are. This is probably my favourite of all the benefits. Caffeine does this by masking pain and increasing your energy. It decreases the sensation of pain by affecting the message of pain being sent to your brain. It increases your energy by raising stimulatory hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine and by reducing fatigue. This can result in you working out for longer i.e. instead of just doing your planned 10 sprint intervals you feel so good you do 12! Woo hoo!
- Caffeine increases the use of fat as a fuel source when exercising. It enhances the body’s ability to burn fat by freeing fatty acids for burning. This is an advantage for people aiming for fat loss or for endurance athletes who are aiming to spare their limited glycogen (carbohydrate) stores.
- Caffeine increases your mood. If you are a coffee drinker you would already know this and not need to see a study to be convinced. There are plenty of studies though that show an increase in mood when caffeine is consumed. Coffee + happy tunes + exercise = an amazing post-workout high!
- Caffeine increases your concentration and reaction time. This can make you feel more focused on your technique, skills and strategies whether lifting weights of playing a team sport.
How much caffeine to take to get these benefits? It depends on the individual. For optimum performance boosting affects researchers recommend at least 3 mg/kg of caffeine is necessary. However for a lot of people this may be too much and may cause you to experience anxiety and that feeling of ‘my heart is about to jump out of my chest’. Anything will be better than nothing so I would suggest you start with about half this recommended dosage.
Finally remember to take breaks from caffeine from time to time as you can get used to it and you need to consume more and more of it to get the same affect. I try to not have much caffeine on my rest days so I stay nice and sensitive to it for my training sessions. My favourite way to have caffeine is a long black made from instant coffee. How do you like to have yours? Or do you have turbo charged workouts even without the assistance of caffeine?