Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
September 27, 2022

Caffeine and Performance Enhancement
by Suzanne Mikolay

Caffeine and Performance Enhancement

Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance found in over sixty plants in the leaves, seeds, and fruits. It is a xanthine alkaloid found in the beans and leaves of the coffee tree, in yerba mate, in tea, and in guarana berries (Caffeine, 2006). The caffeine found in tea is referred to as theine. Caffeine can be found in small quantities in cocoa, kola nut, and Yaupon holly. It is also found in popular energy drinks, such as red bull, and in pill form. Two alternative names are mateine and guaranine. In the plants it is produced in, caffeine acts as a natural pesticide paralyzing and killing insects that feed on it (Everything you need to know, 1998). Caffeine is well known for its effects of increasing alertness and warding off drowsiness. This is because caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant (Caffeine, 2006). Caffeine supplementation is fairly popular in provided energy and helping one stay awake. In sports it is also used as an ergogenic aid to enhance performance amongst athletes.

The discovery of caffeine occurred accidentally in 2737 BC when the first pot of tea was created in China. Emperor at the time Shen Nung was boiling drinking water when leaves feel into his pot. This created a very pleasant smelling drink and a new flavorful beverage. Africans were the first to drink coffee. Coffee beans were highly valuable and used as money. In return they were consumed as food. The first documented use of a caffeinated beverage for a pharmacological effect was in the 15th century. Sufis of Yemen used coffee to stay awake during prayers. By the 16th century coffee houses were set up in Istanbul, Cairo, and Mecca. In the 17th century the first coffee house opened up in Europe (Caffeine, 2006). It was not until the 1880's that the world's first caffeinated soft drinks were created (Everything you need to know, 1998).

Caffeine and Performance Enhancement

The most popular use of caffeine is to increase mental alertness during drowsiness or weakness by stimulating the central nervous system. Caffeine is readily absorbed into the bloodstream and can remain in the body for three to five hours (Lorist & Tops, 2003). Once in the body the effects of caffeine are felt within a half hour. Caffeine is metabolized by the liver and acts as a diuretic, a vasoconstrictor, raising blood pressure, and a neuromodulator, inhibiting the release of some neurotransmitters (Lorist & Tops, 2003).

Although caffeine has many benefits, consumption can also have several negative effects on the body. Caffeine may cause increased blood pressure which can be detrimental to someone with an existing blood pressure condition. Urine output is increased, which can cause dehydration during physical exercise. Fine motor movements are decreased causing shakiness in the hands. Also caffeine has been linked to low birth weights, miscarriages, and still births. Consumption in pregnant women should be limited to less then 300mg per day (Goldstein 1994). Anxiety, insomnia, and increased sleep latency have been associated with caffeine consumption in the later hours of the day (Smith 2002). Individuals however can control their intake of caffeine in order to maximize the benefits and minimize the negative effects. The negative effects mostly occur in caffeine-sensitive individuals or from excessive intake (Smith 2002). Caffeine has low addictive properties in that continued consumption will lead to a tolerance, requiring more and more caffeine to feel the effects (Caffeine 2006).

People that consume caffeine on a regular basis will experience withdrawal following a period of abstinence. Symptoms in include headaches, fatigue, decreased alertness, nausea, anxiety, irritability, and a negative mood. In extreme cases depression and inability to concentrate may occur. These can occur within 12 hrs of abstinence and can last for at least seven days (Rogers & Dernoncourt, 1998). These are mostly due to a dramatic drop in blood pressure (Caffeine, 2006).

Caffeine and Performance Enhancement Caffeine over dose is highly unlikely and more prevalent with caffeine pills. The lethal dose of caffeine is roughly 150 -200 mg per kg of body weight. This is equivalent to about 140 - 180 cups of coffee. To over dose on coffee one would have to consume three cups of coffee every hour for 100 hours. This is dependent on the individual's sensitivity to caffeine, but nearly impossible. Many college students and shift workers use caffeine pills to help fight off sleep and drowsiness. This is relatively harmless unless too much caffeine is ingested (Caffeine 2006). Over doses with caffeine pills can lead to toxicity resulting in caffeine poisoning. Symptoms of caffeine poisoning include restlessness, nervousness, excitement, insomnia, flushed face, diuresis, muscle twitching, paranoia, cardiac arrhythmia, rapid pulse, increased blood pressure, and disorientation (Caffeine, 2005).

Although once thought of as having negative long term effects, new research has shown that habitual caffeine consumption over a lifetime has positive effects on cognitive and physical health. Long term benefits of green tea include a reduced risk in cancer and a delay in the onset of cancer (Nakachi, 200). More research has shown that long term coffee drinking can reduce the risk for Parkinson's disease by 30% and is associated with a significant lowered risk of developing type 2 diabetes (Martyn & Gale, 2003). Caffeine has been also linked to improved cognition in older adults.

Caffeine as a performance enhancer:

Caffeine is the most commonly used drug in the world. It is highly unlikely that this use will decline in the near future because caffeine is inexpensive, socially acceptable, medically safe, and legal (Antonio, 2004). It is a safe and effective ergogenic aid for both strength and endurance athletes and its thermogenic properties make it effective for changing body composition (Sinclair, 2000). These thermogenic properties include; mobilization of fats from adipose tissue and muscle cells, stimulating metabolic receptors, altering the central nervous system to change perception of fatigue allowing athletes to train for long periods of time, adrenaline release into the bloodstream, and stimulation of the heart muscles. It is also the best tested and studied ergogenic aid (Clark, 2005).

One of the first studies to investigate caffeine's performance enhancement abilities was conducted by Costill et al in 1978. This study compared the effects of consuming caffeinated versus decaffeinated coffee one hour prior to exercise. Time to exhaustion in the group that consumed caffeine was significantly longer then the group that drank decaffeinated coffee. Another study preformed on athletes showed that caffeine increased the time to exhaustion by 19% and also reduced muscle glycogen use, hence providing more energy (Erickson, 1987). In 1995 caffeine supplementation showed a significant increase in the average distance cycled in a two hour period (Trice & Hayes, 1995). Many similar studies have been done demonstrating caffeine's ability to enhance perform by increasing time to exhaustion. The most recent work on caffeine's performance enhancing abilities has attempted to explain how the beneficial effects of caffeine can be prolonged throughout the day. Caffeine supplementation with 1 dose and multiple doses were compared to each other and to a control group. Results of this study supported previous research that supplementation increased time to exhaustion. However, it was determined that additional caffeine doses administered after exhaustion was not necessary to prolong its ergogenic effects (Bell et al, 2003).

Caffeine and Performance Enhancement Although caffeine may have many beneficial effects on performance, it was been suggested that caffeine's diuretic properties can lead to dehydration and decreased perform during exercise. It has even been propposed that caffeine does not count as a fluid replacer. Today however we know this is untrue (Clark, 2005). Research has shown that the dehydration effect of caffeine is very minimal and caffeinated beverages constitute a major source of fluid in the diets of many people (Caffeine Supplementation, 2006). In response to the US military's growing interest in the physiological effects of caffeine on hydration, Armstrong attempted to determine whether or not the mild water loss due to caffeine consumption was detrimental to exercise performance and overall health. Diuresis of caffeine and water were compared and there was little difference in urine volume between those that drank water and those that had caffeine one hour prior to exercise. There was also no evidence of a fluid-electrolyte imbalance with caffeine consumption during intense exercise (2002). Previous studies that found the opposite effect, caffeine causes dehydrating effects that outweigh its benefits, failed to compare urine volume over a 24 hour period or did not compare the dehydration effects of caffeine with a control group, consuming only water. Also it is important to note that those that habitually consumed moderate amounts of caffeine have an even lower risk of dehydration (Clark, 2005). Hence caffeine consumption does not cause dehydration over a 24 hour period when compared with water.

Once banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, as of January 1, 2004 competitive athletes are able to consume caffeine and take supplements (Caffeine Supplementation, 2006). However, caffeine concentrations must be kept under 12ug/mL. The controversy is whether an athlete should be allowed to take small amounts of caffeine, within the legal dosage limit of 12ug/mL to gain an edge. Even in small amounts some of caffeine's ergogenic effects are observed. Although legal in the athletic community, studies have shown that caffeine will benefit some athletes. Is this fair however to the athletes that chose not to supplement with caffeine or perhaps are intolerable to it (Graham et al, 1996)? Caffeine has a wide array of positive effects, in both endurance and strength athlete, if used properly. Caffeine supplementation can be highly beneficial to athletes and the general population with minimal harmful effects if not abused.

When taken as a supplement 200-300mg should be consumed approximately half hour before exercise. Caffeine however, like any other drug should be taken in moderation and doses should not exceed 500mg per day. Benefits amongst athletes include; increased definition, increased vascularity, greater pump, increased fat burning, increased workout load, increased endurance, increased workout intensity, less perceived effort, and increased alertness and concentration (Caffeine Supplementation, 2006). Caffeine is a safe and highly effective drug in enhancing performance and has minimal health risks associated with its use. I would recommend caffeine supplementation to any athlete that wants to gain an edge and be able to train more intensely for a longer period of time. With the exception of individuals intolerant to caffeine much research would also agree that caffeine is 100% safe and can be extremely useful.

Go here for more info about Caffeine Supplements


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