Low-Dose Caffeinated Training!
Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD
Caffeine is one of the most safe and effective stimulants for priming your workout energy levels.
It acts as a central nervous system stimulant by blocking adenosine’s effects in the brain. Normally, in the brain, adenosine binds to nerve cells and makes them slow down in their activity; this is what makes you feel sleepy at bedtime. The caffeinated brain, on the other hand, is awake with hyperactive nerves, which promotes increased wakefulness and energy!
Recent work published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research provides the latest scientific support for pre-workout caffeine use. In this double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover-designed study, 14 young athletic males received either low-dose caffeine (120mg) or a placebo approximately 20-minutes before completing anaerobic power testing (i.e., vertical jump) and exercise testing on a non-motorized treadmill. They found that low-dose caffeine resulted in decreased feelings of fatigue during treadmill exercise, with no change in anaerobic power.
ACTION POINTS: Based on this study, you do not need to take 400 or 500 mg of caffeine to reap (at least some of) its pre-workout benefits. Here are 4 key points to remember when using caffeine supplements to SPIKE your workout energy!
- More is not better; in fact (as with most stimulants) the benefits of caffeine diminish if more than an optimal dose is taken. In science, we call this the inverted U effect. This study tells us that as little as 120 mg of pre-workout caffeine may be sufficient. Based on these findings (and others), we recommend taking 100-300 mg, 30-minutes prior to hitting the gym floor. Start low and work up to a dose that suits you.
- Caffeine can dehydrate you (it is a diuretic), therefore you must increase your water consumption when taking it.
- Caffeine has a relatively long half-life of 6 hours. This means that if you drink a large coffee (with about 200 mg of caffeine) at 6 pm before your workout, you will have 100 mg still active in your body at midnight. This can severely affect your sleep cycle–and sleep is of primary importance to strength and muscular gains.
- Caffeine is addictive! Use it in moderation and do not use it to make up for poor sleep habits.
Hahn CJ, Jagim AR, Camic CL, Andre MJ. The acute effects of a caffeine-containing supplement on anaerobic power and subjective measurements of fatigue in recreationally-active males J Strength Cond Res. 2018 Jan 4. 2018 Jan 4. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002442. [Epub ahead of print]
Optimizing Protein Intake
One of the most common questions we receive is,” How much protein do I need for gains?”.
The protein requirements for strength-trained athletes has been a topic of debate for years, with the “bone of contention” being the observation that muscle tissue grows much slower than expected, despite super-compensation with a high protein diet. That is, there is incongruence between how much protein we tend to eat versus the amount our muscles tend to grow.
The most accepted method for assessing protein status in the body is nitrogen balance. In a recent study, researchers analyzed 9 separate studies that used various amounts of protein during controlled resistance training interventions, while assessing nitrogen balance in the participants.
When nitrogen intake was correlated against nitrogen retention, it was found that the correlation became stronger and highly significant when protein intake, body mass, nitrogen intake, and nitrogen balance were all normalized for body mass. At the end of the analysis, it was concluded that a net nitrogen balance of zero (i.e., nothing wasted that was consumed) occurred at a protein intake of 1.35g/kg body mass/day.
ACTION POINT: Although the medical community generally recommends a protein intake of 0.8 g/kg body mass/ day, research has shown that protein requirements for athletes can be more than 2x this amount. This current study falls in line with our protein recommendations for strength training individuals, which should be between 1.35g/kg body mass/day and 2.0g/kg body mass/day depending on diet phase, training volume, and intensity.
Popovich GE. Protein requirements for optimal nitrogen retention in resistance-trained individuals Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2017; 14(Suppl 2):31