Caffeine as a Performance Aid

If you are thinking about using caffeine as a performance aid, consider the following. Timing is everything. Blood levels of caffeine peak between 30-60 minutes post ingestion however, the maximum effect of caffeine on fat stores appears to occur several hours after blood levels peak out. For potential performance results it is best to drink green tea, black tea or coffee 3-4 hours before your workout or event. You are much better off using caffeine in the matrix of coffee or tea then using as a standalone drug. Coffee and green/black teas besides having caffeine have a host of positive effects on muscle tissue and in disease prevention. At Elite Fuel we believe in maximizing performance while improving health, not one or the other.

The exact mechanism by which caffeine exerts its performance enhancing effects seems to be related to enhancing fatty acid oxidation and thereby sparing muscle glycogen. Another notable theory is that caffeine creates a more favorable intracellular ionic environment within active muscle, enabling increased force production by each motor unit. This occurs because of increased mobilization of intracellular calcium which increases contractile strength and favors activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase leading to increased nitric oxide.

The body can quickly build a tolerance to caffeine; in fact many athletes build tolerance within four consecutive days of use.

It is advisable to give yourself a 3-5 day wash out period of no caffeine before competitions to decrease caffeine tolerance and make sure you are getting the maximal caffeine effect. The only caveat to this is caffeine withdrawal side effects. Many people get mood changes and intense headaches when discontinuing caffeine. This is yet another reason if you want to use caffeine for performance to use it inconsistently, so that your body does not make caffeine stimulation the normal mode of operation.

Before even considering using caffeine to help on game day, make sure you have practiced with it extensively so that you know exactly how your body will respond. Remember caffeine is a drug and if you are in a competition that tests for restricted drugs, exceeding 1000mg (8 cups of coffee) of caffeine in a day will show as doping. Depending on metabolism even 350mg in some athletes has led to positive drug tests. For both long term health and to eliminate the chance of being disqualified from a competition I would not use more than 250mg a day as a performance aid.

Also, beware that caffeine interacts with many prescription drugs and can eliminate the positive effects of supplemental creatine when taken in tandem. It is always best with any new addition to your performance regimen to start slow and only add in one supplement at a time so you are aware of your body’s response to the new substance.

For an in depth review of caffeine’s theorized effect on the human body check out the reference below:

Dominik H Pesta, Siddhartha S Angadi, Martin Burtscher and Christian K Roberts. The effects of caffeine, nicotine, ethanol, and tetrahydrocannabinol on exercise performance. Nutrition & Metabolism 2013, 10:71.