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Does Caffeine Help Performance?


How many things can you confidently say you do each and every day? Sure, you get dressed, eat a few (or more) meals and brush your teeth. However, most of us don’t go to work each day. Many of us forgo exercise at least once per week. And as a physiotherapist, I can unfortunately but certainly say that drinking water isn’t even a daily staple for most people. The point is, your list of daily habits is likely pretty exclusive.

Now, what’s your daily prerogative on caffeine? Research asserts that over 80% of adults use caffeine each and every day1. That’s a huge number, and it isn’t exaggeratory to refer to caffeine as a cultural staple. For most, the word caffeine conjures thoughts of espresso or green tea.  For those reading this article, energy drinks and pre-workout supplements may enter the mix. Caffeine’s consumption has many purposes, whether it be to boost performance in the gym or because lattés taste really, really good. An integral part of your daily routine, caffeine’s benefits and versatility know no bounds.

Caffeine is one of the most widely consumed and thoroughly researched substances in the known world. So, why are there still so many questions about it? How much is okay to drink? Will it help me lift more weight? In this article, your caffeine questions will be answered. Let’s get to it.


How Much is Too Much?

As a physiotherapist, this is a question I get frequently. In a review by Helms et al2, 6 mg/kg/day is reported as a safe upper daily limit of caffeine consumption. Thus, for a 75kg person, this research suggests that 450mg of caffeine can be safely consumed each day. Further research by Turnbull et al3 asserts that up to 600mg/day can be consumed in healthy populations with little to no adverse effects.

Caffeine gets an unfair reputation in many circles, but these metrics may put your mind at ease that caffeine’s consumption is not fundamentally dangerous. It should be reiterated though that caffeine tolerance is largely individual. Therefore, it stands to reason that if you’re unaccustomed to its effects, working up to 6 mg/kg/day be best practice.


Does Caffeine Improve Performance?

From an endurance perspective, research indicates that caffeine augments an increase in cardiovascular performances4. This research also indicates that doses necessary to achieve these effects are a bit higher (3mg/kg of body weight) than your average shot of espresso.

Caffeine may also be of benefit to weight trainees. Some research suggests that maximum power output can be improved if caffeine is consumed about 30-60 minutes prior to exercise. However, the majority of caffeine’s benefits come the ability to incorporate larger training volumes over the course of a workout. In other words, caffeine may help you lift heavier weight, and it also augments the ability to lift heavy weight for longer periods of time. Win-win.

Important to note too is that caffeine promotes other positive effects akin to the gym. The improved cognition, focus and arousal given from caffeine are a welcome addition to any workout6.  

Does it Stimulate Fat Loss?

Caffeine is a stimulant, meaning the volume dial of your body’s nervous system is turned up from consumption. This manifests as many things, most desirably increased alertness and wakefulness6. Something else to consider is your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which may be adequately defined as the total number of calories you burn just to keep you alive.

Your BMR is turned up from caffeine, though not to any extreme level. However, even if the caffeine does not directly cause you to burn hundreds more calories, the enhanced motivation and focus while training just might.

Do keep in mind that this rise in BMR is largely variable. Therefore, it should be lost on no one that eating a low-calorie diet, high in protein be the focal point of fat loss with caffeine playing a more minor role.


Where do you go from here?

Hopefully this article shed some light on your caffeine-related questions. Clearly, if used correctly, caffeine poses significant benefits for high-level exercise in addition to many other practices. So, if you’re looking to maximize each and every minute you’re in the gym, consider supplementing with a stimulant-based pre-workout formula such as Stim Junkie. This product not only stands to improve your focus and mentation in the gym, but increased workout volume may also reap increased gains. Tap here to shop the range of pre-workout products.


Author, Dr. Brian Grant, PT, DPT, CSCS 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6680710/
  2. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-11-20
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28756014/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27612937/
  5. https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijspp/2/3/article-p250.xml
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763416300690
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