Caffeine can reduce the pain caused by exercise
But researchers caution that you shouldn't rely on java's jolt for a competitive edge.
By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 5, 2006

The benefits of caffeine, the placement of tobacco and alcohol ads and the fitness-sabotaging potential of health publications were among the other highlights of the American College of Sports Medicine meeting.

In the caffeine study, researchers at the University of Georgia found that it can reduce pain resulting from exercise. Nine college-age women who weren't big coffee drinkers were given caffeine (the equivalent of about two or three cups of coffee) or a placebo and asked to do a series of leg extensions, in which the quadriceps are engaged.

Those who took caffeine, said lead author Victor Maridakis, felt less pain during the exercise, from 25% to 48% depending on the phase of the exercise. He theorizes that caffeine may block pain receptors to the brain. But he cautions that athletes and weekend warriors shouldn't rely on caffeine to always see them through a game or workout. "Everyone wants that competitive edge," he said, "but it's how much you think you can handle and how your body reacts to it."

In the advertising study, researchers examined the amount of alcohol and tobacco ads contained in nine sports and health-related magazines such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Golf, Runner's World, Men's Health and Tennis. This was a follow-up to similar research published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. in 2000 that looked at the number of ads in these publications and other similar ones. The recent study found that advertising across the board had decreased. In the case of Sports Illustrated, ads dropped by 60%.

The study's lead author, Alex Goldberg, is a 17-year-old junior at Lake Oswego High School in Lake Oswego, Ore.; he and classmate Erik Greene updated the research after two of Goldberg's older brothers did the initial study when they were in high school.

The original study garnered so much publicity because of the advertising's potential effect on young, impressionable readers. The outcome, said Goldberg, was "that the big tobacco corporations said they were going to try to reduce their ads in the big sports magazines that have a high youth readership, and we found out that they actually did. It was a positive result."

Magazines may be even more influential when it comes to overall health.

In a third study, 64 college-age men and women did 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on a treadmill while reading mainstream health magazines featuring fit, trim, youthful models. They reported increased feelings of anxiety, depression and tension as compared with a control group that read National Geographic and improved its anxiety and mood levels.

When people don't feel better after exercise, "that's a huge loss," said the study's lead author, Ann Wertz Garvin, associate professor of exercise psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. "When you exercise you not only want your body to get better, but you want to feel better too." People might be comparing themselves to the models, says Garvin, and thinking, "I don't look like them, so what's the point of keeping this up?"

She adds, "If you're looking to feel better after exercise, it might not be the best thing to pick up one of these magazines."