Caffeine has had a lot of mixed press over the years, which gets confusing. It’s categorised as a drug, a stimulant, a diuretic and not a member of the nutrient family.
It’s true that consuming caffeine affects certain individuals. Side effects such as headaches, increased heart rate, trembling, insomnia and a need to go to the toilet after drinking coffee are not uncommon. But for those of us who are able to tolerate it, what can caffeine do to help our exercise performance?
Firstly, it stimulates our nervous system, increasing endorphin levels in the brain. This accumulation of endorphins heightens alertness and our ability to concentrate, reduces our perception of pain and fatigue, positively affects our mood and generally increases our sense of wellbeing.
Taken prior to exercise, caffeine has been shown to boost performance in the majority of power, strength and endurance type activities. Performance enhancements occur soon after consumption so you are best to take it 30-60 minutes before exercise. Also, relatively low doses (1-3 mg per kg body weight) will work just as well as higher doses. For a 70 kg person, this equates to 70-210mg caffeine (equivalent to approximately two cups of coffee).
Caffeine taken in pill form prior to exercise has been shown to produce the best results. This may suit some but personally, I refuse to take caffeine in pill form as this would deny me the pleasure I get from drinking a regular cup of Joe. Good coffee brings too much joy for that
Written by coach James