Coffee is always the answer: exactly how to use caffeine for better workout results


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I cannot do an early morning workout without a cup of caffeine goodness. I get up and head straight to the kettle before I do anything else. Coffee first, then I can function. But is this good human behaviour? Surely this addiction is actually harmful to my body? The news is good, fellow addicts: Coffee can actually improve your workout results.

Coffee is always the answer: exactly how to use caffeine for better workout results

But how?

This is the first question I asked Tayla Faulmann, a muscle physiologist. “Caffeine predominantly stimulates the central nervous system [CNS],” she begins. “[And] stimulation of the CNS improves alertness and coordination.” A bonus for any athlete.

“Caffeine also causes a decreased perception of pain. As a result, the perception of exertion is blunted and athletes may feel like they can continue for longer at a higher intensity,” Faulmann says. So for those days when you know you’re in for a killer workout – coffee.

“Caffeine creates a favourable ionic environment within muscle cells,” Faulmann adds. This means that more force can be produced. Heading out for a run with some tough terrain? Again, coffee.

Science applied

I wanted to know whether this endurance boost would only really be effective for ultra distances or long workouts, but it seems that caffeine is a friend to all.

“Recent studies indicate that it also has positive effects on intermittent anaerobic exercise, such as soccer, rugby and hockey,” says Faulmann. “It also appears that favourable effects can be seen in speed endurance exercise.”

How to get the best results using caffeine

Most humans start the day with a cup of coffee. This human: Around three or four. But what ritual should be followed to get the best results?

“Caffeine is usually absorbed in around 30 to 90 minutes, so if you are consuming caffeine before you begin to exercise, it’s recommended that you have it about one hour before you begin,” Faulmann explains. She adds that if you do wake up a bit late, a coffee during your workout is just as good, if not better. Cyclists, isn’t this the best excuse for a coffee ride?

“Another misconception is that you need to ingest large amounts to see any benefit,” Faulmann adds. This is what I thought, but small doses (one regular cup of coffee) are more than enough to boost performance.

Coffee Addicts Anonymous, you’ll like this one. “It’s recommended that regular coffee drinkers don’t disrupt their usual consumption of caffeine, as the withdrawal effects may decrease performance,” Faulmann explains. And, interestingly, the results of performance improvement between a regular and a non-habitual coffee drinker were equal.

A cup a day keeps the stiffness away

If I haven’t convinced you already, here’s one more caffeine-kick bonus: It can help your muscles recover faster. “In a 2008 study, two groups of athletes were compared. One group consumed only carbohydrates and the other carbs and caffeine following exercise,” says Faulmann. “The caffeine group displayed much better muscle glycogen stores, which is a vital part of enhanced recovery.” I rest my case.

A side note…

Caffeine does slightly increase blood pressure, which is something those with hypertension issues should be aware of. “If you suffer from any heart problems, it’s highly recommended that you consult a doctor beforehand,” warns Faulmann.

And, lastly, for the non-coffee drinkers, these seven foods will help you get your buzz on.

Written by: Cally Silberbauer

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