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 slowdown 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 preworkout 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.
Based on this study, you do not need to take 400 or 500 mg of caffeine to reap (at least some of) its preworkout 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 preworkout 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]