Plenty of evidence suggest caffeine helps boost your workout performance.
The same way that your 9am cup of coffee gives you a much-needed pick-me-up in the morning, the world’s most popular stimulant can also add a little extra to your workout — especially strength sessions. It makes you more alert, boosts your energy levels, sharpens your focus, helps you burn fat, and lets you exercise for longer periods of time.
“In the fitness world, caffeine is the major listed ingredient of all the fancy energy supplements on the market,” says Todd Liubinskas, athlete and coach for Complete Strength and Performance in Concord, Sydney. That’s why caffeine is so commonly used among athletes.
What does it do?
For an athlete, caffeine increases stamina, decreases muscle pain, and fights fatigue — in short, it makes you perform better. “Caffeine is useful for stimulating your central nervous system, revving up your metabolism and boosting your workout,” Liubinskas explains. “Many scientific studies have confirmed a link between caffeine consumption and increased athletic performance. The powerful, nootropic effects of caffeine actually affect the neurotransmitters in your brain to avoid relaxation and sedation.”
How to take it?
Caffeine supplements come as pills, pre-workout powders, as well as a good old-fashioned cup of coffee — and there’s plenty of debate about the best way to consume it. Coffee contains less caffeine that a pill or powder, but it’s also more natural. Pills are affordable and efficient, but start with small doses if your body’s not used to ingesting caffeine, while a pre-workout powder has the benefit of containing many other useful proteins. If you start shaking or feeling a headache, cut back on your dosage, and make sure any product you consume has been properly tested.
When to take it?
Todd says he finds pre-workout useful early in the morning to get an extra kick for strength sessions, consumed 60-90 minutes before he hits the gym. “Classified as an ‘ergogenic acid’, caffeine actually has no nutritional value and peaks within your body between one and two hours after consumption,” he continues. “I actually use both coffee and pre- workout.” Avoid taking any caffeine supplements after 2pm, though — the active ingredient can keep you awake late and night and interrupt your sleeping patterns — and make sure you stay well hydrated, because caffeine is a mild diuretic.