Caffeine: The Athletic Boost

Good news for Joe-drinkers — if you like your morning coffee and tea, recent research suggests there are benefits not just for athletes but also for the regular fitness crowd.

Preliminary research

Tara Parker-Pope (blogger in the NYTimes) has been known to provide synopses on her take of preliminary research in the field of nutrition and fitness.  In this case, her Well Blog about coffee and workouts describes how caffeine can help the everyday gym-goer perform better and longer when in the gym.

The study, conducted at Coventry University in England, was small (13 subjects, resistance trained males).  The goal was to ascertain whether or not having a little caffeine prior to working out could help extend the workout.  The researchers say that, as compared to the placebo, caffeine can help people exercise longer before hitting their wall.  Although they tested individuals 60 minutes before (using around 179 mg), they admit they are still uncertain as to whether or not other timing and dosing is more or less effective — especially to prevent unwanted side effects (think: running to the b-room).

The facts…

The fact of the matter is that using caffeine as a performance enhancement is already (very) well-known for athletes, especially endurance athletes (since they have always been the prime subjects to test on with caffeine).  Although the mechanisms are still not entirely understood, we do know caffeine can…

(1) increase alertness

(2) delay fatigue

(3) slow down the muscle glycogen breakdown – which helps stay out there for longer.

For the general population?

For the average individual, this research has demonstrated there is a significant enhancement with just a little bit of caffeine prior to the workout (we’re talking around 179 mg 60 minutes beforehand).  This is equivalent to a cup and a half of coffee.  Try it out!




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