Q: Do you recommend using caffeine to improve training and performance?
A: Yes, and no.
First off, I think it is reasonable to recommend caffeine products to improve physical performance under certain conditions. Studies have shown caffeine can be very effective among athletes to improve performance when taken ~60 minutes prior (always give yourself enough time here); however, there are important guidelines to consider.
- Not exceeding 400 milligrams a day (there is such thing as TOO much).
- Being cautious with already present high blood pressure.
- Limiting consumption if sensitive to caffeine or experiencing headaches, insomnia, high heart rate, tremors, upset stomach and/or other health issues.
Now, keeping these guidelines in mind, it would also be important to note that a 3mg/kg per bodyweight of caffeine is needed, as only 1mg/kg had no significant effect on performance (Del Coso J., Salinero J. J., González-Millán C., Abián-Vicén J., Pérez-González B, 2012). If an athlete is not a good candidate and cannot consume an adequate amount of caffeine without complications, I would not recommend consumption as a smaller dose will not make a difference in performance.
Conversely, with a sufficient amount of caffeine (3mg/kg) performance increases in these findings did include an increased maximal power output and force/velocity production in the ½ squat and the bench press. So yes, it can improve performance. And although this caffeine dose (3mg/kg) was shown to increase blood pressure and mean arterial pressure, the caffeine dose didn’t affect resting energy expenditure, mechanical ventilation or respiratory exchange ratio. Also mentioned were side effects with energy drinks like abdominal discomfort, so it may be reasonable to recommend alternate caffeine sources (i.e. coffee).
Both 5mg of caffeinated coffee and decaffeinated coffee paired with 5mg of anhydrous caffeine were also found to significantly improve performance during resistance training when compared to not using caffeine at all – in this case, total weight during the squat and completing 60% of 1 repetition maximum until failure on 5 occasions (Richardson, D. L., Clark, N. D, 2016). There were significant differences in total weight lifted (caffeine vs other conditions). Based on these findings, it is reasonable to recommend caffeine to healthy candidates prior to resistance exercise, but it’s important to note that the study mentions it may not be effective over multiple bouts.
So what about you, do you use caffeine to boost performance? Why or why not? Share some thought s below.
Happy training friends!
Richardson, D. L., Clark, N. D (2016). Effect of Coffee and Caffeine Ingestion on Resistance Exercise Performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. Oct;30(10):2892-900. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001382.
Del Coso J., Salinero J. J., González-Millán C., Abián-Vicén J., Pérez-González B (2012). Dose response effects of a caffeine-containing energy drink on muscle performance: a repeated measures design.Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. May 8;9(1):21. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-21.