Of all the performance enhancing supplements, caffeine has been a staple for athletes of all sports. Not only has it been around for an extremely long period of time but its ergogenic effects are undeniable. With the various versions of caffeine out on the market, I want this article to serve the purpose of educating you on the ergogenic effects of caffeine, its mechanism and pathways of action, as well as the various forms. Before continuing on, we need to remember there is a dose response that will vary drastically from person to person given our own biological differences. Certain people only need a lower dose of a stimulant such as caffeine because they may be a hyper-metabolize of this ingredient meaning, they metabolize it faster and more efficiently than another. This leads them to needing a lower dosage. But, if you’re someone who isn’t a hyper-metabolizer, your dosage may be higher. In any regard, always begin with the minimum effective dosage (MED) and systematically work your way up overtime on an as needed basis.
Caffeine is obviously a naturally occurring substance that is typically ingested through your morning coffee. Typically, the caffeine content within coffee beans is roughly 1% of their total weight (1.) These beans also possess oils, proteins, hemicellulose and holocellulose, pectin, and a few others. Caffeine is a xanthine compound with three methyl groups attached at the 1,3, and 7 carbons on the xanthine backbone (which is why its’ chemical name is 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine.) Its main mechanism of action involved antagonizing adenosine receptors. As we know, adenosine is very well known to increase your ability to relax. Caffeine essentially blocks this action and causes the alert and energetic feeling we come to expect from caffeine ingestion (2, 3, 4, 5.) As we now understand its main mechanism of action and the basics of what caffeine is, we will move on to what the literature has to say about possible ergogenic effects.
The first ergogenic benefit that I feel has some of the best research supporting its claim, is its ability to increase overall performance and output. This first bit of literature comes to us from Glaister and colleagues where their purpose was to examine the effects of caffeine supplementation on multiple sprint running performance. They used a randomized double-blind research design with 21 active men that consumed either caffeine or placebo. They found that maximum speed had increased in the caffeine group 1.4% better than when compared to the placebo group (6.) You may be thinking that 1.4% is not a drastic increase, so lets look into another study. This time, more along the lines of what a bodybuilder would expect. This study from Mora-Rodriquez et al was conducted in order to investigate whether caffeine ingestion counteracts the morning reduction in neuromuscular performance associated with the circadian rhythm pattern. What was found was that by ingesting caffeine, they were able to reduce the power output decrease associated with morning training and actually equalized performance whether the resistance training was conducted in the morning or at night (7.) That shows massive benefit and directly carries over to us as physique athletes. Sometimes our schedule does not allow us to work out only at night or only in the morning, so with adding caffeine into your pre workout drink, you can negate the typical circadian rhythm issues that normally arise. Giving you the ability to exercise at whatever time is most convenient for you.
1. Caffeine in coffee: its removal. Why and how? K. Ramalakshmi, B. Raghavan. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1999 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10516914)
2. Adenosine A1-A2A receptor heteromers: new targets for caffeine in the brain. Sergi Ferre, Francisco Ciruela, Janusz Borycz, Marcello Solinas, Davide Quarta, Katerina Antoniou, Cesar Quiroz, Zuzana Justinova, Carme Lluis, Rafael Franco, et al. Front Biosci. 2008 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17981720)
3. Caffeine and exercise. Scott A. Paluska. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2003 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12834577)
4. Computational study of the binding modes of caffeine to the adenosine A2A receptor. Yuli Liu, Steven K. Burger, Paul W. Ayers, Esteban Vöhringer-Martinez. J Phys Chem B. 2011 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21970461)
5. The role of adenosine in the regulation of sleep. Zhi-Li Huang, Yoshihiro Urade, Osamu Hayaishi. Curr Top Med Chem. 2011 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21401496)
6. Caffeine supplementation and multiple sprint running performance. Mark Glaister, Glyn Howatson, Corinne S. Abraham, Richard A. Lockey, Jon E. Goodwin, Paul Foley, Gillian McInnes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18799995)
7. Caffeine Ingestion Reverses the Circadian Rhythm Effects on Neuromuscular Performance in Highly Resistance-Trained Men. Ricardo Mora-Rodríguez, Jesús García Pallarés, Álvaro López-Samanes, Juan Fernando Ortega, Valentín E. Fernández-Elías. PLoS One. 2012 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22496767)
8. Effects of caffeine on prolonged intermittent-sprint ability in team-sport athletes. Knut Thomas Schneiker, David Bishop, Brian Dawson, Laurence Peter Hackett. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16540848)
9. The effect of caffeine ingestion on delayed onset muscle soreness. Caitlin F. Hurley, Disa L. Hatfield, Deborah A. Riebe. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24164961)
10. Dose effect of caffeine on testosterone and cortisol responses to resistance exercise. C. Martin Beaven, Will G. Hopkins, Kier T. Hansen, Mathew R. Wood, John B. Cronin, Timothy E. Lowe. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2008 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18458357)
11. Effect of caffeine on reactive agility time when fresh and fatigued. Daniel M. Duvnjak-Zaknich, Brian T. Dawson, Karen E. Wallman, Greg Henry. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21266929)
12. Effects of coffee and caffeine anhydrous on strength and sprint performance. Trexler, E. T., Roelofs, E. J., Hirsch, K. R., Mock, M. G., & Smith-Ryan, A. E. (2015). Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4595305/)