Evidence shows caffeine is effective at optimizing athletic performance in any sport.
The world of sports and fitness is starting to focus more on a new player for boosting performance: caffeine. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (1), caffeine is effective at enhancing performance in trained athletes when consumed in low to moderate doses (as found in Isagenix e+)—and that’s in any sport.
Elevated levels of caffeine appear in the body 15 to 45 minutes after ingestion and peak concentrations are evident within 1 hour, making caffeine a perfect pre-workout routine. There are multiple explanations to explain how caffeine works to enhance performance, but the most extensively reviewed is that caffeine competes with a neurotransmitter in our brains that causes drowsiness, called adenosine.
Adenosine works by blocking the neurotransmitters that keep us awake and alert, especially dopamine. Oddly enough, adenosine can build up in the body during exercise and lead to fatigue. By blocking adenosine, caffeine works to stimulate the central nervous system, resulting in a variety of processes that may improve athletic performance—increased heart rate and delayed feelings of fatigue included.
In addition to stimulating the central nervous system, caffeine may improve athletic performance by decreasing the body’s reliance on glycogen for energy and instead turning to fatty acid mobilization.
Glycogen—the stored form of glucose in the body found primarily in the liver and muscles—acts as an energy reserve that can be quickly mobilized to meet a sudden need for glucose. When the body uses glycogen for energy it’s called glycolysis. However, the body can only store so much glycogen. Additionally, fatty acids are more energy concentrated and can be burned faster and more efficiently, sparing the body from glycogen depletion and exhaustion.
Multiple studies have shown significant increases in intramuscular fat oxidation and reduced glycolysis in subjects who consumed caffeine before or during physical activity (2, 3). What this equates to in the gym or on the field is longer, harder bursts of athletic performance.
Another way that caffeine allows athletes to exercise longer and at a higher intensity is by increasing the secretion of endorphins (4). Endorphins are released by the pituitary gland in the brain and evidence has shown that during exercise they increase feelings of well-being and possibly decrease pain perception. The term “runner’s high” is based on this concept—runners may be able to keep running despite pain or fatigue, continuously surpassing what they otherwise would consider to be their pain limit.
Here’s a quick run-down of how caffeine can help all types of athletes surpass their limits:
Endurance Athletes (Swimmer, Runner, Cyclist, Etc.)
The goal of endurance athletes is to increase stamina, which can be both physically and mentally draining. Because of the long duration of performance, endurance athletes are at high risk for glycogen depletion. By supplementing with caffeine, fatty acids may become the preferred source of energy rather than running solely on glycogen stores. Because fatty acids contain a more compact form of energy and can be easily broken down, endurance athletes may be able to perform harder and for longer.
In a systemic review of more than twenty studies, researchers found that caffeine can be an ergogenic aid (performance-enhancing) for endurance athletes when taken before and/or during exercise (5). They also found that abstaining from caffeine for about 7 days before use at a completion optimized the ergogenic effect.
Additionally, the combination of caffeine and carbohydrate can improve performance for endurance athletes by enhancing brain efficiency in terms of sustained attention and working memory (6). A study of trained cyclists who were moderate caffeine consumers found that those who consumed caffeine performed significantly faster and took longer to reach exhaustion. In addition, the caffeine-consuming cyclists were also the only ones to experience significant improvements in complex cognitive abilities, none of which were observed when the substances were consumed separately (7).
High-Intensity Athletes (Football Player, Sprinter, Etc.)
High-intensity athletes aim to build strength to improve quickness, agility, and technique. By stimulating the central nervous system, caffeine can help high-intensity athletes to push their limits and power through challenging competition, even when they are fatigued.
Researchers investigated the effect of caffeine in 16 sleep-deprived professional rugby players (8). Caffeine increased voluntary workload in the players, even more so under conditions of self-reported limited sleep. Based on this data, caffeine may prove worthwhile especially when athletes are sleep deprived.
Another study looked at trained swimmers who consumed caffeine and showed significant increases in speed (9). However, untrained, or less skilled swimmers, did not have significant improvements when they consumed caffeine. What does this mean? Caffeine can give you the extra boost, but it does not give you the skills.
Strength-Power Athletes (Bodybuilder, Fitness Competitor, Etc.)
Bodybuilders and fitness competitors strive to build large, well-defined muscle. This is accomplished through short bursts of extremely intense exercise. Although research on the benefits of caffeine for this group of athletes is fairly small, there is some evidence that caffeine may increase peak power.
In a study of highly conditioned male athletes, researchers investigated how caffeine consumption would affect muscular endurance (10). The researchers tested maximum weight limit for leg press, chest press, and Wingate in all the athletes (Wingate is an anaerobic test performed on an arm crank ergometer that consists of a set time pedaling at maximum speed against a consistent force). Results indicated a significant increase in performance for the chest press and peak power on the Wingate.
With evidence showing caffeine can be advantageous for any athlete whether consumed before—and sometimes even during—workouts, it begs the question of what caffeine can do for recovery. And it looks like it even does the job here, too. When combined with carbohydrates, caffeine may also aid in exercise recovery. At least one study has found an increase in the rate of glycogen synthesis when caffeine and carbohydrate are taken together post exercise (11). This gives muscles the glycogen recovery they need to repair and be ready for the next workout.
Whatever type of athlete you are or competitive event you perform in, caffeine may be a wise choice to help you perform harder, longer, and stronger. It’s got the science behind it; now let it get behind your athletic performance.
1.Goldstein ER, Ziegenfuss T, Kalman D et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2010;7:5.
2. Costill DL, Dalsky GP, Fink WJ. Effects of caffeine ingestion on metabolism and exercise performance. Med Sci Sports 1978;10:155-8.
3. Spriet LL, MacLean DA, Dyck DJ, Hultman E, Cederblad G, Graham TE. Caffeine ingestion and muscle metabolism during prolonged exercise in humans. Am J Physiol 1992;262:E891-E898.
4. Grossman A, Sutton JR. Endorphins: what are they? How are they measured? What is their role in exercise? Med Sci Sports Exerc 1985;17:74-81.
5.Ganio MS, Klau JF, Casa DJ, Armstrong LE, Maresh CM. Effect of caffeine on sport-specific endurance performance: a systematic review. J Strength Cond Res 2009;23:315-24.
6.Serra-Grabulosa JM, Adan A, Falcon C, Bargallo N. Glucose and caffeine effects on sustained attention: an exploratory fMRI study. Hum Psychopharmacol 2010;25:543-52.
7.Hogervorst E, Bandelow S, Schmitt J et al. Caffeine improves physical and cognitive performance during exhaustive exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2008;40:1841-51.
8.Cook C, Beaven CM, Kilduff LP, Drawer S. Acute caffeine ingestion’s increase of voluntarily chosen resistance-training load after limited sleep. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2012;22:157-64.
9.Collomp K, Ahmaidi S, Chatard JC, Audran M, Prefaut C. Benefits of caffeine ingestion on sprint performance in trained and untrained swimmers. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1992;64:377-80.
Source: Isagenix Health Blog