Caffeine has gotten some bad reputation over the years for allegedly being a harmful and addictive substance. It’s mostly taken via what most consider the most popular beverage, coffee. Caffeine has been repeatedly proven to be absolutely harmless for the majority of people, as it provides numerous physical performance and overall health benefits. It is sometimes wrongly viewed by some as some kind of vice that should be reduced or eliminated altogether from our diet.
As previously mentioned, statistics have shown that coffee is the most commonly consumed beverage. One of its main properties is that it has a potent stimulating effect. And the key compound which is responsible for lots of cases of coffee addiction is none other than caffeine.
It’s not that bad!
Caffeine’s bad reputation can be largely attributed to specific problematic issues that might arise. It is often seen as the main cause of sleep deprivation, increased anxiety, irritability, and stomach irritation. All of these symptoms, however, should be more closely examined before jumping to conclusions. The smart way of consuming caffeine can significantly improve lots of good health, mental and physical performance markers. That is unless one’s daily dose of coffee doesn’t exceed more than 5 cups or the pre-workout supplement formula is taken twice the recommended amount. Coffee consumption has been linked to decreased cancer risk, lower rates of diabetes and lower number of Parkinson’s disease cases.
Caffeine in both its isolated form or mixed in pre-workout supplements and coffee is still a potent stimulant for maximizing performance. It improves your mood, memory and makes you feel energized. Numerous studies have confirmed that people who took between 2-5 cups of coffee a day had a lower risk of experiencing cardiovascular issues. Coffee and caffeine’s stimulating effect are “vices” that a lot of people outright refuse to eliminate from their diet since they help them go through their day and simply cannot function without them.
People who are thinking of reducing their coffee intake or eliminate it completely will be happy to know that they’d be better off continuing their drinking habit. Caffeine and its many forms can really make you feel more alive, and make you feel ready to take on the hardest job, being impervious to pain, exhaustion, and depression.
Go beyond the pain
Coffee’s positive effect on physical performance and its ability to enhance one’s memory are widely known and highly revered among its countless consumers all around the world. And even more interesting and potentially surprising to a lot of people is that caffeine possesses powerful pain-killing characteristics. Nutrition scientists have discovered that just a single cup of coffee can help diminish the pain over the short term in a matter of minutes.
One study had fifty men and women put their arms into buckets filled with ice-cold water. Initially, the men could withstand the pain longer than the women. However, after taking a caffeine dose of 250mg, the women experienced improved tolerance to the cold water and could, afterward, endure the pain longer than the men, who by the way took the same amount of caffeine. Another study examined caffeine’s impact on ischemic muscle contraction pain, which is a specific and intense type of pain related to heart attacks. The participants were split into two groups. One group took 200mg of caffeine, the other took placebo.
After resting for an hour, they were instructed to raise their arms in order to drain the blood. Then, blood pressure cuffs were attached to prevent the blood from going back to the muscles. They were then instructed to do wrist curls with light weights and each participant was asked to rate how much pain they were experiencing at 20-second intervals. The group that was taking caffeine reported significantly less pain than the participants in the other group who took a placebo.
Caffeine’s powerful analgesic properties, as mentioned previously, are mostly attributed to caffeine’s ability to block the neurotransmitter adenosine, which is in charge of carrying pain signals from the nerve endings to your brain. It also activates the adrenaline pathways which are necessary to suppress pain, which in turn stimulates your body’s natural pain-killing mechanisms.
Caffeine intake also causes major central nervous system stimulation, which makes pain signals become processed in a way in which pain suppression is achieved faster. Basically, caffeine can suppress pain by giving relief to the injured area. For lifters how often lift heavy weights, caffeine can decrease muscle soreness by decreasing inflammation levels and speed up the recovery of damaged tissues. The central nervous system is also energized with caffeine, which allows strength levels to be recovered faster after intense training sessions. The generally recommended daily dose of caffeine is usually 100mg every few hours. This dose can also prevent the development of migraines and reduce the grueling pain.
Balzac’s weapon of choice
The famous 19th-century French playwright and novelist Honoré de Balzac held coffee in the highest esteem and praised its invigorating impact on his mental capabilities. He said that “coffee keeps the blood moving and stimulates the muscles, it accelerates the digestive system, chases sleep away and makes us capable of engaging a little longer in our intellectual exercises”.
The effectiveness of caffeine in the form of improving motivation, alertness, reaction time, overall focus and reasoning, is absolutely crucial for those for which these properties are essential for preserving life itself. We are referring to people in the military who often consume high amounts of caffeine and many other stimulants in order to keep their mental focus and alertness at the highest levels in life-and-death situations.
These same people are known to consume granulated coffee in copious amounts to chase away physical and mental fatigue. Since it is both readily available anywhere in the world and also legal, not to mention its low potential for toxicity and low abuse potential, caffeine is for soldiers and fitness enthusiasts alike, the go-to supplement to increase aggression and improve physical and mental performance.
Caffeine has been shown to be especially effective when doing monotonous or repetitive tasks. Training in the gym, whether it’s endless reps of squats or 20 minutes of HIIT requires an enormous amount of mental focus, physical intensity and attention to proper execution.
That’s why caffeine with its arsenal of potent ergogenic actions is very useful. Besides caffeine’s boosting effect on CNS activity, there is also the combined impact of caffeine’s metabolites theobromine, which improves nutrient and oxygen flow to your brain, theophylline which relaxes the muscles and improves heart rate efficiency and paraxanthine, which improves lipolysis, the process where fats are broken down to be used as an energy source.
Caffeine actually increases the levels of fatty acids in the bloodstream to a degree where carbohydrates deposits are preserved and utilized more efficiently. This, in turn, increases muscle endurance and aids in keeping high energy levels for longer. Mixing carbohydrates and caffeine in your pre-workout meal is a proven strategy for improving physical performance.
But, consuming this combination within four hours after training has been shown to increase athletic performance by increasing the glycogen uptake by approximately 65%. Caffeine prepares us for action and improves productivity, by increasing the neural firing and stimulating the pituitary gland to produce more adrenaline. Put simply, it makes us move and act faster and more efficiently and also makes us stronger at the same time. It’s no wonder it’s a staple ingredient in every pre-workout supplement that’s proven its worth, not to mention it boosts muscle glycogen uptake when taken after training.
Not just a stimulant
When mixed together, water and caffeine are easily absorbed into the bloodstream and then rapidly transported through the blood-brain barrier to work their magic. When given caffeine, your brain releases its natural supply of stimulants and you get a cascade of potent psychoactive effects. Caffeine’s molecular structure is very similar to a molecule in the brain, known as adenosine.
When adenosine is located in its receptor areas, it makes you feel tired, which ensures that your body gets as much rest as it needs. But, since it’s similar to the molecule of adenosine, caffeine can also get inside the adenosine receptors. Since adenosine molecules are not present, sometimes up to 5 hours, you won’t feel tired, but energized and alert instead. When it keeps the adenosine receptors occupied, caffeine increases the release and circulation of a multitude of stimulants found naturally in the brain, such as the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, adrenaline and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
The individual and combined effects of these compounds, when released in high amounts, control anxiety, decrease depression, increase your mood and motivation, fight off mental fatigue and increase the overall sense of well-being. That’s why caffeine can be considered more as an enabler of stimulants than a stimulant itself. In either case, when used properly, this great supplement, can positively change your brain chemistry.
Should you consume it or not ?
The general conclusion is that when taken in proper doses and not abusing it, caffeine can greatly improve overall human body performance and better than any other stimulant. Regardless of whether you’re striving to hit a new one rep max, trying to build as much muscle as possible, preparing for an endurance competition or trying to channel all of your mental energy into a creative project, caffeine, along with its numerous positive effects, should be a staple ingredient in everyday life.
If you keep the upper limit to 500mg daily taken in separate doses evenly spaced out, or taken at strategic times, like when getting 200 grams before training to prepare yourself prepared mentally and physically for the upcoming exertion, you will find that caffeine is the best performance-enhancing stimulant you ever find. Taking into consideration that it only starts becoming toxic at approximately 150mg of bodyweight (for a person of an average weight of 80kg that would amount to 12g or 80 cups of coffee), caffeine has the lowest risk of causing any kind of health issues. And even better, it doesn’t require any prescription and it’s perfectly legal to buy.
However, as with any substance, it can cause addiction and brings a multitude of side effects including headaches, lethargy which could last 8-12 days after eliminating it from your diet. In order the get the most benefits, drink coffee early in the day and do not drink it 4-5 hours before going to bed. You can also cycle it, for example, you can drink 1-2 cup a day and then increase the dosage to 5-6 over the next 5 days, to make it more effective. Caffeine is found in its most effective form in a good pre-workout supplement. These are excellent for taking your physical and mental performance to an entirely new level.
Simply put, caffeine can become your best training partner, and not just for training performance, it can help in all areas of life.