We all love a cup of coffee, but did you know caffeine is also one of the oldest and most popular performance-enhancing supplements there is? Some organizations, such as the NCAA, have even go so far as to ban caffeine in high doses because of its performance-enhancing effects.
Coffee is of course the standard method for taking caffeine, and there can be no doubt that the black stuff is a superfood. Last week we reported on a new study that showed that increased coffee consumption is linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
Coffee consumption had already been linked to a lower relative risk of a number of different forms of cancer, such as liver, bowel, and breast cancer.
Coffee drinkers have also been shown to have more testosterone and less estradiol than non-drinkers; although in this case it appears to be the cholorogenic acid (a plant phenol) and not the caffeine that is responsible.
Here we’ll tell you five ways caffeine can help improve your athletic performance.
Caffeine and Endurance
A study found that around 10 mg/lb (or about 400 mg total) of caffeine increased endurance in athletes. They were able to cover 1.3–2 miles (2–3.2 km) more than the placebo group.
In another study, this time of cyclists, caffeine was shown to be superior to carbohydrates or water in increasing performance. Caffeine increased work load by 7.4%, compared to 5.2% in the carb group.
Caffeine’s effects on endurance have also been assessed through coffee consumption. In a 1,500-meter run, regular coffee drinkers were 4.2 seconds faster than those drinking decaffeinated coffee.
Caffeine and High-Intensity Exercise
In the case of high-intensity exercise, like sprinting, caffeine appears to have far more of an effect for trained rather than untrained athletes.
While two studies of active men doing bike sprints found there was no difference between the effects of caffeine and water (study one, study two), when competitive athletes were tested, caffeine led to a significant increase in sprint power.
A comparison of trained and untrained swimmers showed similar results.
Caffeine and Strength Training
With regard to strength training, again the results appear to be mixed. Studies have shown a positive effect on bench press and leg exercises, as well as muscular endurance; although others have shown no effect on leg strength, for instance.
Caffeine and Weight Loss
As we’ve already reported, caffeine “is a potent pre-workout which can prime your body for fat loss”.
A new study from the University of Granada shows drinking a strong cup of coffee (the equivalent of 3mg/kg bodyweight) half an hour before working out has a significant effect on fat burning. The researchers also discovered that the effects were more pronounced if the workout – and the caffeine consumption – took place during the afternoon rather than the morning.
Another study has shown that taking caffeine before exercise can increase the release of stored fat by 30%.
Long-term studies of the effects of caffeine on weight loss are, however, lacking.
A Note: Coffee and Sleep
One serious consideration when supplementing with caffeine is sleep. You probably don’t need telling that caffeine consumption can affect your sleep patterns, but just how bad that can be for your health, including your athletic performance, may not be as clear as it should be.
We recommend reading our article on the importance of sleep now if you haven’t already.
One study, for instance, showed that improving your sleep can DOUBLE your testosterone levels. Yes, you read that right: DOUBLE.
Our advice: limit your caffeine consumption to the morning if you can.
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