Coffee has long been known to boost energy and enhance concentration. But how does it actually help athletes achieve better performance? Here we'll go over the facts on how caffeine affects your physical performance, how much of it you should consume, and other things you can do aside from drinking coffee to give your energy a kick.
Effects of caffeine on your body:
- Caffeine reduces the perception of pain. This means you can push harder without feeling as much of the pain associated with extreme physical effort.
- Caffeine increases adrenaline levels, which improves focus and alertness instead of getting distracted by fatigue or discomfort.
- Caffeine increases energy levels in the blood, which can help delay fatigue in several ways. During high-intensity exercise bouts, it may also re-energize tired muscles and contract more powerfully.
- Caffeine increases the rate of fat burning by mobilizing free fatty acids (more fuel for exercise). It also improves blood flow to the muscles and provides a small amount of additional oxygen delivery from hemoglobinhaemoglobin in red blood cells (also more fuel for exercise).
How does caffeine enhance performance in strength training?
In strength training, caffeine helps you:
- Stay focused, so your form is perfect
- Keep going when you get tired
- Push harder so that you adjust to more challenging workouts faster
- Train harder to see results sooner
When is the best time to consume caffeine?
You can consume caffeine 30-60 minutes before exercise. This may seem obvious, but you mustn't drink coffee immediately before a workout or have a large cup of coffee without any food immediately beforehand. In addition, caffeine causes increased blood pressure, so caffeine should not be consumed by people with heart problems.
How much caffeine should I have to get the benefits? And when is it too much?
There's a general consensus among scientists that 3mg of caffeine per kg body weight is the optimal amount to reap the benefits. Unfortunately, this means 200-300mg for an average person or approximately three to four cups of coffee per day. The good news is that 400mg (roughly four and a half cups) is considered safe for most adults, so if you're worried about over-consuming caffeine, rest assured that there's a wide margin of safety.
However, as with any substance, some people are more sensitive to its effects than others. If you feel sensitive to caffeine's effects, it makes sense not to go over 300mg per day (approximately 4 cups). And if you're pregnant or have a heart condition and are still not sure how much caffeine it's safe for you to take in, it would be wise to consult with your doctor before consuming any.
Having too much caffeine can be pretty unpleasant; they include insomnia, restlessness; anxiety; stomach irritation and muscle tremors—and believe me: nobody wants to experience those while they're working out!
Are there other ways to boost exercise performance that doesn't involve caffeine?
Here are some other ways athletes might be able to boost exercise performance:
- Training with others
- Mental training
- Training in a cool environment (e.g., outdoors)
- Wearing a weighted vest during workouts
- Training in a fasted state (i.e., after an overnight fast or after delaying your breakfast until after you've exercised)
While it seems like a no-brainer, coffee is definitely beneficial to your exercise routine. As a stimulant, it can increase your performance and help you focus during your workouts. It lowers the perceived exertion of muscle movement (think: how hard something feels when you're working out), which means you can push yourself harder and longer than if you hadn't had the pre-workout boost. Additionally, by dilating blood vessels and increasing blood flow throughout the body, caffeine helps deliver nutrients to active muscles faster than they would reach them.