People of all walks of life use caffeine in a regular basis. In fact, it has been used for a very long time.1 But about 100 years ago, its ability to increase muscular work was discovered.2 You can find caffeine in the parts of various plants. Nowadays, it is also a common ingredient in foods, drinks and even medicine. In fact, its use is so widespread, that 90% of people consume caffeine every day.3 It is common in coffee, soda pop, teas and energy drinks and only takes 45 minutes to completely absorb. This is because it can absorb right through the stomach. Furthermore, it takes 3-4 hours for about half of it to be removed by the body.4 Here are the benefits of caffeine:
Positive Caffeine Benefits
Likely the reason caffeine is so popular is that it stimulates the brain. The results are greater alertness and a better ability to focus. In addition, the broken-down components of caffeine dilate blood vessels. This means better blood flow. Muscles get more oxygen and smooth muscles, like in organs, relax, suggesting enhanced athletic performance. For some, the best news is that it increases fat-burning activity by increasing metabolism.4,5
Negative Caffeine Results
Yet not all the effects of caffeine are positive. Side effects may include anxiety, headaches and restlessness. All of these of course can hamper physical performance, particularly in an athletic sense. However, they are most often the result of higher doses. Typical intake is 2-9mg per kg of bodyweight.6
What Athletes Actually Believe
In a 2005 Ironman competition, 73% of athletes reported a belief that caffeine enhances their performance. 84% of them believe it improves their focus.7 It turns out, they are correct. There are many studies supporting caffeine’s ability to enhance endurance exercise.4,9,10,11,12,13,14 Only a few have studied the effect of caffeine on short-term exercise.15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23 As a whole, there is no final conclusion given that study results vary widely. So, suggest caffeine improves performance, others that it does nothing and even others that show a negative effect. So, which is it?
The Final Word on the Benefits of Caffeine
A band of researchers set out to figure this out. In an analysis of 28 different studies, they concluded that caffeine is helpful in some athletic settings, but not-so-much in others. Here is what they concluded:6
- Doses of 2.5-7mg of caffeine per kg of bodyweight improve intense exercise results.
- Performance in team sports requiring activities such as repeatededly sprinting is enhanced with a high dose of caffeine before exercise.
- In contrast, taking caffeine may decrease performance of repeated intense efforts.
- Serious, high-intensity athletes may experience a greater effect from caffeine. Less trained individuals tend to experience less effect when performing resistance training, tests of maximum power and swimming.
- Caffeine does not improve high-intensity strength exercises such as 1 rep max testing much. But it does enhance resistance training in general.
- Caffeine does not affect pain.
- The response to caffeine is rather variable among individuals. This is likely due to the differences in how quickly people’s bodies process it.