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Athletes train harder, longer, and perform better with caffeine

by Mark Miller July 14, 2016

Athletes train harder, longer, and perform better with caffeine

Sprinters get some benefit from caffeine, but the real benefits to athletes come in endurance sports. ( Wikimedia Commons/ms4denmark)

Athletes train harder, longer and get more results on caffeine. If someone told you about a common, legal substance that could help you burn fat, increase your athletic performance and decrease muscle pain, you might call him a liar. But caffeine reportedly does all that for athletes and more.

The International Olympic Committee once limited how much caffeine Olympic athletes could take. The committee categorized caffeine as a performance-enhancing substance but has since removed it from the list of regulated or banned substances.

Examine.com, in an article on the benefits of caffeine, states:

A caffeine dose of 400 – 600 mg is one of the most reliable and potent ways to temporarily increase strength through supplementation. People who are caffeine naive will typically experience improved power output during strength training or anaerobic exercise.

Caffeine can also play a role in recovery post-workout, whether you’re caffeine naive or caffeine tolerant. Ingesting caffeine alongside carbohydrates can improve the rate of glycogen replenishment, which is particularly important if you work out very frequently or multiple times per day.

You’re so naïve

Caffeine naïve means you haven’t developed a dependency on caffeine. Caffeine tolerant means you’re used to caffeine and don’t experience as many of its stimulating effects as those who are naïve. To experience all the benefits from caffeine, Examine.com recommends taking it only occasionally.

Men’s Fitness has an article that lists 5 ways caffeine can boost athletic performance.

Caffeine may cause the body—whether you’re caffeine tolerant or not—to burn fat cells as an energy source rather than glycogen. At the same time, the caffeine boosts metabolism so you burn more calories not just when you’re working out but all day long, Men’s Fitness says.

In addition, studies show coffee in particular to be an appetite suppressant.

So you’re burning fat cells, boosting your metabolism and suppressing your appetite when you have that cup or two of coffee or tea or take your caffeine in other products.

Performance-enhancing

Several studies say taking caffeine before an athletic event enhances athletes’ performance. A study in the journal Sports Medicine says athletes train at a greater power output or train longer after they take caffeine. A second study, in the British Journal of Sports Science,found runners gained 4.2 seconds in a 1,500-meter run over their competitors who were not on caffeine. That might not seem like much, but to an elite athlete a gain of 4.2 seconds can mean the difference between first and last.

Caffeine also improves one’s mental focus, which obviously has benefits beyond the field of athletic endeavor. It can help you concentrate on the job of working out.

Less pain, more gain

And Men’s Fitness and WebMD reported on the analgesic effects of coffee. Says a 2009 article in WebMD:

Caffeine eases the muscle pains of exercising, new research shows, suggesting coffee might literally be a brew that promotes health. University of Illinois researchers found that caffeine intake is associated with pain reduction in both young men who take in lots of caffeine and also in young men who don’t.

The researchers found a statistically significant reduction in quadriceps muscle pain after giving the caffeine compared to the placebo pill. Both men accustomed to consuming caffeine and those who were not habitual caffeine drinkers demonstrated reduced pain with caffeine ingestion prior to exercise testing.

Does caffeine really burn fat?

By the way, a doctor quoted in the WebMD says there isn’t compelling research to suggest that caffeine helps athletes burn fat.

To settle this question of whether caffeine burns fat, we turned to MayoClinic.org:

Some studies looking at caffeine and weight were poor quality or done on animals, making the results questionable or hard to generalize to humans. In addition, some studies found that even decaffeinated coffee may contribute to modest weight loss, suggesting that substances or factors besides caffeine may play a role in weight loss.

A 2013 article in the British tabloid The Daily Mail says five cups or more coffee per day can actually make you gainweight instead of lose it. Again, this study was based on research on caffeine’s effects on mice.

But in moderation, coffee is OK. A researcher in The Daily Mail is quoted as saying: “It seems that the health effects are dose-dependent. A moderate intake of coffee, up to three to four cups a day still seems to decrease the risk of developing diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.”

Many other benefits

Which brings us to all the other ways that caffeine benefits people. Our Viter Energy Mints blog did an entire posting titled Evidence piles up that caffeine is good for us.

According to various experts, coffee:

  • Reduces risk of heart disease, cancer and multiple sclerosis
  • Boosts semen production
  • Invigorates
  • Enhances memory
  • Alleviates fatigue
  • Relieves sleep deprivation
  • Reduces the risk of kidney stones
  • Helps alleviate migraine headaches
  • Enhances the effect of over-the-counter painkillers
  • Prevents erectile dysfunction
  • Reduces suicide risk
  • Prevents tinnitus
  • Reduce the risk of dementia
  • Reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease

Athletes train harder, longer

An article on Active.com states in no uncertain terms that caffeine enhances athletic performance:

Caffeine is one of the best-tested ergogenic aids (substances, devices, or practices that enhance an individual’s energy use, production, or recovery) and is known to help athletes train harder and longer. Caffeine stimulates the brain and contributes to clearer thinking and greater concentration.

The article mentions that a majority of 74 studies on caffeine found it gives athletes a boost. The article states athletic efforts seem easier by about 6 percent, and the average boost in performance is about 12 percent. More gains are seen in endurance sports than in sprinting and short bursts of activity.

Mark Miller
Mark Miller


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