Caffiene is the number one most popular nootropic that almost the entire population consumes. It dates back thousands of years and due to the recent surge in the supplementation industry, has been included as the main ingredient in all pre workout and energy based formulas. Just like millions of people I love nothing more than grabbing a cup of coffee as soon as I wake up and then having another around lunchtime when the first crash sets in, If I’m lucky and plan my crashes correctly, I might make it to bedtime and actually get a good nights sleep. Now this is starting to sound negative, which it is, but is there a real benefit in consuming this amount of caffeine or am I just sending myself into an early grave….. Let’s find out!
Firstly, before we dig in to whether we should consume caffeine or not, we need to fully understand what it is and what it does. Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound found commonly in tea, coffee and cocoa plants. The main reason people use caffeine, as I’m sure you’re aware, is that its a great stimulant! It helps people wake up in the morning, gets people over the midday hump and energises people before their workout.
When caffeine is consumed, it is quickly absorbed from the gut into your bloodstream. After this caffeine travels to your liver where it is then broken down and can affect various organs throughout the body. The main effect we need to talk about, is the effect caffeine has on the brain.
We first need to know about the neurotransmitter adenosine. Adenosine is what builds up throughout the day, binds to receptors in the brain which causes the brain to relax and feel tired. Caffeine blocks these receptors and stops the adenosine from connecting, therefore the receptors cannot activate. This ultimately leads to reduce levels of tiredness.
Now that we know caffeine helps fight off tiredness when adenosine has built up, how does it help those that need a coffee as soon as they wake up? You should have already cleared all the adenosine right? Yes, however that’s not the only function of caffeine. Caffeine also increases blood adrenaline levels and further release of dopamine and norepinephrine. This helps give that feeling of euphoria after about 30 minutes of your first cup of coffee.
There’s a few ways that caffeine can effect us in a positive way so let’s start with the obvious.
When exercising, caffeine is the king/ queen of supplements. We already know that it reduces tiredness and boosts alertness which are fantastic effects to have pre workout but it has some great effects during workout as well.
Caffeine may also improve muscle contractions and increase tolerance to fatigue. As long as you are consuming around 3mg per kg of bodyweight you are likely to find that it may reduce perceived exertion during exercise by up to 5.6% therefore meaning your workouts will feel easier and that you could increase the intensity you’re working at when consuming caffeine before working out.
There is also an argument to be made on the effects of caffeine to your metabolism and the rate of which you burn fat. Studies have shown that at the time of drinking caffeine, it could increase your metabolism by around 11% which would equate to around an extra 80 calories burnt per day. Relatively small however over a years time it adds up to a lot of extra burnt calories.
Now, just like everything, for all the good does bring a little bad and caffeine is no exception. Caffeine like many drugs is highly addictive. I’m sure you remember your first cup of coffee (I sure do) and the feeling like you could become the productivity master and that nothing could get in your way, well for a few hours until it wore
off that is. Have you noticed you just don’t get that feeling anymore? That is because our body builds up a tolerance to caffeine. In other more “sciencey” words, the brain develops more receptors for the adenosine bind with therefore you need more caffeine to fill those receptors. The problem with then consuming more caffeine to get the same effect is that is can start coming with a whole party of side effects that really aren’t pleasant, just like other drugs…. You can overdose.
Some side effects linked to excess intake include anxiety, restlessness, tremors, irregular heartbeat, and trouble sleeping. Too much caffeine also starts to promote migraines and high blood pressure which can lead to further health complications down the line.
So what do I think as a personal trainer? Well caffeine is great to fend off tiredness and is also a great tool to enhance your workouts however you should be very careful not to develop an addiction (I’ve been there, it’s not pleasant) therefore sticking to the guidelines of a maximum 400mg per day and no more than 200mg consumed in one sitting then you should be good to go. It’s worth noting that you should try to keep your caffeine consumption all before 2/3pm as it has a half life of around 5 hours so you don’t want it effecting a good nights sleep!