Caffeine and strength training The performance-enhancing effects of caffeine

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It is not news that caffeine can improve the performance of strength athletes during their training. Yet this is clearly underlined in a new review of more than 100 studies, which included hypertrophy expert Brad Schoenfeld.

Key points:

1.   Caffeine has positive effects on strength training. With sufficient intake, it promotes muscle endurance, maximum strength and explosive power.

2.   But those ergogenic effects may only be there if you don’t normally consume caffeine. And after one big dose of caffeine, your body may need another two weeks to ‘wean’.

3.   Caffeine intake also increases alertness, even if you use caffeine every day. This can also have a beneficial effect on your training.

4.   To promote strength performance, the recommended dose is 3-9 mg/kg body weight (usually 200 to 500 mg), taken 60 minutes before training.

5.   If you don’t like coffee, you can also take caffeine supplements. Pre-workout supplements also contain caffeine, but often less than the minimum recommended amount of 200 mg.

6.   If you take more caffeine than 9 mg/kg of body weight in a day, you may get side effects, such as insomnia.

MORE STRENGTH THROUGH CAFFEINE

According to that review, caffeine intake appears to promote muscle endurance, maximum strength and explosive power.

That was also the conclusion of a meta-analysis that appeared earlier this year:

Caffeine appears to provide significant ergogenic effects on muscle strength and power.

Remarkably enough, according to that analysis, the effects of caffeine are more pronounced in the upper body than in the lower body. So you may not notice it much during your leg training.

ONE BIG ‘BUT’

Caffeine only works as a strength sports supplement if your body is not used to it. Caffeine has namely a so-called insurmountable tolerance: once your body is used to a certain dose, for example 200 milligrams per day, caffeine will no longer offer you any benefits in terms of strength, even if you take a (much) higher dose.

In fact, according to supplement expert Kurtis Frank, you can only benefit from caffeine’s ergogenic properties if you only consume caffeine once every two weeks. The rest of the time you should therefore not consume coffee or other caffeinated products, at most one cup of green tea per day. The result is (only) one bang workout every two weeks, at the cost of a further caffeine-free existence.

The aforementioned meta-analyses do not really provide clarity on this point, as most of the studies analyzed do not provide insight into how much caffeine the participants consume in their daily lives. That caffeine consumption leads to caffeine tolerance is nevertheless a well-known phenomenon. Interestingly enough, this tolerance does not arm you against the negative influence of caffeine on sleep. That is why you should not take caffeine late in the evening, even as an inveterate coffee drinker.

Even if you consume caffeine on a daily or regular basis, caffeine intake before exercise can be beneficial. According to Frank, the substance will in any case increase your alertness, even if your body is used to it.

DOSAGE

To take advantage of the positive effects of caffeine on strength performance, take a dose of caffeine of 3-9 mg/kg body weight approximately 60 minutes before your workout . For someone who weighs 75 kilos that means at least 225 mg of caffeine.

On average, a normal cup of coffee contains 90 to 150 mg of caffeine, so you should already have two cups before your workout. The other meta-analysis we cited came up with a recommendation of 200 to 500 mg.

SUPPLEMENTATION

Caffeine is also a regular ingredient of pre-workout supplements (PWOs). They often contain around 150 g of caffeine per serving, which, based on the review, seems on the low side. However, there are also PWOs that provide around 300g of caffeine per serving.

If you prefer not to use PWO and you are not a coffee lover, there are always caffeine supplements.

Caffeine also stimulates fat burning, making it the main ingredient of so-called fatburners.

SAFETY

If you stay within the recommended range of dosage, caffeine consumption is safe. For someone weighing 75 kg, that means a maximum of (9 * 75 =) 675 mg of caffeine per day. If you take more, side effects such as insomnia can occur.

IN SUMMARY

Caffeine has positive effects on strength training. With sufficient intake, it promotes muscle endurance, maximum strength and explosive power.

But those ergogenic effects may only be there if you don’t normally consume caffeine. And after one big dose of caffeine, your body may need another two weeks to ‘wean’.

Caffeine intake also increases alertness, even if you use caffeine every day. This can also have a beneficial effect on your training.

To promote strength performance, the recommended dose is 3–9 mg/kg body weight (usually 200 to 500 mg), taken 60 minutes before training.

If you don’t like coffee, you can also take caffeine supplements. Pre-workout supplements also contain caffeine, but often less than the minimum recommended amount of 200 mg.

If you take more caffeine than 9 mg/kg of body weight in a day, you may get side effects, such as insomnia.

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