Athletics/Sport

Caffeine – Friend or Foe?

Many of us love that first cup of coffee or tea in the morning.  It smells good, gives us a boost to get the day going, wakes the brain, and may be associated with one of the most relaxing moments we have during the day.  And to go without it – well that just starts the day out wrong!  

Caffeine has an addictive effect.  But before thinking you are a drug addict, consuming low to moderate amounts of caffeine does not pose a problem for most healthy people.  However, as with any consumable, caffeine has both benefits and drawbacks, and may not be for everyone.  

Let’s take a look at what caffeine does in the body, the benefits it can have to improving performance, and when to use caution consuming it.

Why There Is an Almost Instant Boost

Caffeine is a stimulant.  It’s absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and is quickly metabolized by the liver.  Within 15 minutes caffeine begins circulating in the bloodstream, and within 45 minutes 99% percent of it is absorbed.  It easily crosses nerve and cell membranes and into the brain.  As a result, caffeine can make you feel more physically and mentally energized.

Typical caffeine sources

  • 8oz Coffee (95-200mg)
  • 1oz Espresso (40-75mg)
  • 12oz Cola (30-47mg)
  • 8oz Green Tea (24-40mg)
  • 8oz Black Tea (14-61mg)
  • 1oz Bittersweet Chocolate (25mg)

Caffeine and exercise performance

The use of caffeine in athletes has been shown to improve their performance by decreasing reaction time and lengthening time to exhaustion.1  Additionally, athletes consuming caffeine an hour before resistance training, researchers found that the athletes could perform more repetitions, and the muscle soreness that developed in the following days decreased (known as DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).2  The optimal amount of caffeine consumed was found to be between 3-6 mg per kg of body weight (pounds divided by 2.2).  So, what does this mean for everyone else?

Caffeine and the average exerciser – Benefits and Concerns

For us non-athletes, a bit of caffeine (1-2 cups of coffee for example) before working out may give us that boost of energy to increase aerobic exercise and resistance training repetitions.  Always go slow and steady when adding anything new.

For pregnant and nursing women, and for those with heart issues, stomach issues, high blood pressure, sleep problems, etc., caffeine beyond small amounts is not recommended and should be determined in consultation with a doctor.

1 Goldstein, E. R., Ziegenfuss, T., Kalman, D., Kreider, R., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C., & … Antonio, J. (2010). International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition71-15.

2 Hurley, C.F., Hatfield, D.L., Riebe, D.A. (2013) The effect of caffeine ingestion on delayed onset muscle soreness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 27(11)3101-3109.