We’re pretty much saturated with caffeine. The stimulant is in a wide variety of beverages, foods and – of course – workout supplements that we encounter on a daily basis. In fact, coffee – the primary source of caffeine – is such a large part of the American culture that in 2010 the National Coffee Association calculated that the nation spends $40 billion on the beans every year.
But, despite all that popularity, there’s a growing amount of people who avoid caffeine out of fear of any potential negative effects. Among the abstainers are a significant number of athletes who view caffeine as a bad influence on their performance. So, this raises the question: Should athletes avoid caffeine? To answer, let’s take a look at how caffeine affects an athlete.
What’s Really Going On
As mentioned, caffeine is a powerful and reliable stimulant. Basically, this means that a dose of caffeine will speed up your heart rate, which in turn with have a similar effect on many other biological functions. Primarily, this is accomplished through a spike of adrenaline.
Following this hormonal shift, the body experiences a number of reactions that are actually perfect for the athlete. First, you begin to breakdown more fat for fuel. Not only does this mean that you are tapping into an incredibly rich source of energy, it also helps to improve body composition.
The combination of these two reactions results in a significant improvement of aerobic exercise performance. Along with this, studies have also shown caffeine to be a fairly impressive ergogenic aid when it comes to strength and power output. It’s also worth noting that these same studies have observed a slight increase in testosterone – though this usually only happens with pretty high doses and is a little unreliable.
Finally, the cocktail of free fat and adrenaline has a fantastic way of decreasing the athletes rating of perceived exertion along with lactate production. Of course, no discussion of caffeine would be complete without talking about what it does for your brain. Following a dose, your mental focus and awareness are heightened – working along with the muscular effects to increase your reaction times.
Clearly, there are some definite benefits of caffeine use for the athlete. So how can you use it most effectively?
Striking a Balance
Perhaps the reason that so many are starting to shy away from caffeine is due to an unfortunate technical classification: Technically speaking, caffeine is a drug. And, as with any drug, there is the issue of both dependance and tolerance.
At a certain point, your body will adapt to caffeine meaning that it will require steadily larger doses for you to feel any different. The trick, then, according to the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit at Johns Hopkins is to keep your caffeine intake below the dependance threshold of about 100mg daily. This number isn’t the same for everyone, though, and it may take some experimentation to find the sweet spot for you.
All that being said, if you do decide to use a supplement that contains caffeine, it’s likely a good idea to pick one that has a dose below the dependance threshold and is a source of natural caffeine. Gnarly Pump, for instance, contains 60mg of caffeine from green tea to give you just the right amount of energy without risk of tolerance or dependance. Why not take a few minutes to look into Gnarly Pump and find out what makes it a reliable, effective pre-workout?