By Jose Antonio Ph.D.
Evidence supporting the performance-enhancing effects of caffeine is stacked higher than a Hollywood starlet after her fifth augmentation. According to a position paper by the International Society of Sports Nutrition, there is a plethora of evidence that shows that the acute consumption of caffeine can help both strength-power and endurance activities.1 And for you science geeks, the proof is in the hundreds of studies published on caffeine. However, there’s no need to review all of these studies.
Here are seven reasons to consider supplementing with caffeine.
1) INCREASE STRENGTH
Thirteen resistance-trained men ingested a caffeinated (179 mg) energy drink or placebo solution 60 minutes before completing a bout of the following exercises: bench press, deadlift, prone row, and back squat exercise to failure at an intensity of 60 percent one-repetition maximum. Subjects who consumed the caffeinated beverage performed more repetitions to failure in all exercises. The RPE or ratings of perceived exertion was higher in the placebo condition.2
2) IMPROVE ENDURANCE
Get this— a chewing gum that’s caffeinated! Move over, Wrigley. In this gum study, eight male cyclists participated in five separate laboratory sessions. In their first visit their maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) was determined. During the next four visits, three pieces of chewing gum were administered at three timed points (120 min. pre-cycling, 60 min. pre-cycling, and 5 min. pre-cycling). The dose of caffeine given was 300 milligrams. They discovered that caffeine administered in a chewing gum enhanced cycling performance when administered immediately prior, but not when administered one or two hours prior to cycling.4 Clearly caffeine can help both endurance and strength-related exercises.
3) BOOST SPEED
A fairly recent study determined the effects of caffeine on repeated sprint ability, reactive agility time, sleep and next day exercise performance. Did you get all that? Ten male athletes consumed a placebo or caffeine (6 mg per kg bodyweight) one hour prior to exercise. Significant improvements were shown after caffeine ingestion compared to placebo for the combined total time of each set and best sprint time. However, the coolest part of this study was that the caffeinated group still had better performance the following day. That’s right, the following day. Caffeine, however, had little effect on reactive agility time or sleep.5 Also, a caffeine-containing energy drink (3 mg/kg wt dose) increased repeated sprint ability during a simulated soccer game.6
4) ENHANCE PERFORMANCE
One study looked at the effects of Red Bull on cardiovascular and neurologic functions in college-aged students enrolled at Winona State University. They found that Red Bull consumption lessens changes in blood pressure during stressful experiences and increases one’s pain tolerance.8 Another study on Red Bull found that upper body muscle endurance on the bench press was improved.9 Similarly, Red Bull improved aerobic endurance (maintaining 65-75% maximum heart rate) and anaerobic performance (maintaining maximum speed) on cycle ergometers. It also helped brain function. Scientists found improvements in mental performance that included choice reaction time, concentration (number cancellation) and memory (immediate recall), which reflected increased subjective alertness.10 Another energy drink, Redline, significantly improved subjective feelings of focus and energy in male strength/power athletes and enhanced their reaction time.11 Despite the naysayers who proclaim energy drinks a threat to heart health and Western civilization, fear not. The stuff works and is safe when used in appropriate dosages.
5) INCREASE TESTOSTERONE
For real? Caffeine affects hormone levels? Check this out. Forty-two healthy adults were recruited from the Boston community who were regular coffee consumers, nonsmokers and overweight. That’s an interesting trio of things. Participants were randomized to five 6-ounce cups of caffeinated or decaffeinated instant coffee or water (control group) per day consumed with each meal, mid-morning and mid-afternoon. After four weeks, the consumption of caffeinated coffee increased total testosterone and decreased total and free estradiol in male subjects.12 What does this mean? It means I’m drinking lots of coffee.
6) IT’S SAFE
The data shows it. In a large cohort of initially healthy women, elevated caffeine consumption was not associated with an increased risk of incident atrial fibrillation.13 Caffeine also helps prevent stress and improves memory.14 Another study found that “coffee drinking may be associated with a decreased risk of dementia/AD. This may be mediated by caffeine and/or other mechanisms like antioxidant capacity and increased insulin sensitivity. This finding might open possibilities for prevention or postponing the onset of dementia/AD.”15 Sounds like a lot of gobbledygook. And I assure you, it might be. But caffeine truly is good for you.
7) IT’S NOT A DIURETIC
Perhaps one of the biggest myths surrounding caffeine is that its use will have a severe diuretic effect. Interestingly, the science just doesn’t support that. One review states that there is no evidence that consuming caffeine-containing beverages as part of a normal lifestyle leads to fluid loss in excess of the volume ingested or is associated with poor hydration status.16
About 3-5 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram bodyweight will do the trick.17,18 So at the low end of dosing, a 100- and 200-pound person would need to consume 136 and 273 milligrams of caffeine, respectively. At the high end, it would be 227 and 454 milligrams, respectively. Or to make things simple, 200-300 milligrams of caffeine will likely suffice for virtually everyone.
Jose Antonio, Ph.D. is the CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition and a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Exercise and Sports Science Department in Davie, Florida.
1. Goldstein ER, Ziegenfuss T, Kalman D, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010;7:5.
2. Duncan MJ, Smith M, Cook K, James RS. The acute effect of a caffeine-containing energy drink on mood state, readiness to invest effort, and resistance exercise to failure. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association 2012;26:2858-65.
3. Goldstein E, Jacobs PL, Whitehurst M, Penhollow T, Antonio J. Caffeine enhances upper body strength in resistance-trained women. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010;7:18.
4. Ryan EJ, Kim CH, Fickes EJ, et al. Caffeine Gum and Cycling Performance: A Timing Study. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association 2012.
5. Pontifex KJ, Wallman KE, Dawson BT, Goodman C. Effects of caffeine on repeated sprint ability, reactive agility time, sleep and next day performance. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness 2010;50:455-64.
6. Del Coso J, Munoz-Fernandez VE, Munoz G, et al. Effects of a caffeine-containing energy drink on simulated soccer performance. PloS one 2012;7:e31380.
7. Turley KR, Rivas JD, Townsend JR, Morton AB, Kosarek JW, Cullum MG. Effects of caffeine on anaerobic exercise in boys. Pediatric exercise science 2012;24:210-9.
8. Ragsdale FR, Gronli TD, Batool N, et al. Effect of Red Bull energy drink on cardiovascular and renal function. Amino acids 2010;38:1193-200.
9. Forbes SC, Candow DG, Little JP, Magnus C, Chilibeck PD. Effect of Red Bull energy drink on repeated Wingate cycle performance and bench-press muscle endurance. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 2007;17:433-44.
10. Alford C, Cox H, Wescott R. The effects of red bull energy drink on human performance and mood. Amino acids 2001;21:139-50.
11. Hoffman JR, Kang J, Ratamess NA, Hoffman MW, Tranchina CP, Faigenbaum AD. Examination of a pre-exercise, high energy supplement on exercise performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009;6:2.
12. Wedick NM, Mantzoros CS, Ding EL, et al. The effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee on sex hormone-binding globulin and endogenous sex hormone levels: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrition journal 2012;11:86.
13. Conen D, Chiuve SE, Everett BM, Zhang SM, Buring JE, Albert CM. Caffeine consumption and incident atrial fibrillation in women. The American journal of clinical nutrition 2010;92:509-14.
14. Alzoubi KH, Abdul-Razzak KK, Khabour OF, Al-Tuweiq GM, Alzubi MA, Alkadhi KA. Caffeine prevents cognitive impairment induced by chronic psychosocial stress and/or high fat-high carbohydrate diet. Behavioural brain research 2013;237:7-14.
15. Eskelinen MH, Kivipelto M. Caffeine as a protective factor in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease : JAD 2010;20 Suppl 1:S167-74.
16. Maughan RJ, Griffin J. Caffeine ingestion and fluid balance: a review. Journal of human nutrition and dietetics : the official journal of the British Dietetic Association 2003;16:411-20.
17. Desbrow B, Biddulph C, Devlin B, Grant GD, Anoopkumar-Dukie S, Leveritt MD. The effects of different doses of caffeine on endurance cycling time trial performance. Journal of sports sciences 2012;30:115-20.
18. Astorino TA, Cottrell T, Lozano AT, Aburto-Pratt K, Duhon J. Increases in cycling performance in response to caffeine ingestion are repeatable. Nutr Res 2012;32:78-84.