Caffeine is a natural substance that acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system. The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord and is the control centre of the human body. Caffeine excites or stimulates the brain and spinal cord which can leave an individual feeling more alert or awake.
However with overconsumption, caffeine can cause problems or create side effects. Caffeine is absorbed by the stomach and the small intestine. It is mostly absorbed 45-60 mins after ingestion and, depending on the amount consumed, major effects can take place 15 minutes to an hour after consumption.
Adequate Caffeine can aid your workout by;
- Improved circulation: helping blood and oxygen flow to the muscles.
- Making you alert: increasing focus and intensity
- Less pain: can reduce perceived muscular pain.
- Better memory: ability to recall exercise routines
- Muscle preservation: aids with preventing muscle strength loss associated with ageing
- More muscle fuel: when consumed with carbohydrates, it can increase glycogen stores of up to 66%, post 4 hours of intense exercise.
Overconsumption of Caffeine can cause the following side effects;
- It can alter coordination
- Can make you jittery
- Increase your blood pressure
- Cause headaches and nausea
- Impact on the ability to get to, or stay asleep
- It can eliminate required fluids when performing taxing exercise
Despite the large amount of research going into the study of caffeine and how it affects the body, the results are controversial and have conflicting views. Two points that support the use of caffeine as an athlete are; it does not affect short term, high intensity exercise (e.g. 100m sprint) and it can increase performance in endurance sports.
It is believed that when caffeine is consumed it can cause the body to use fat stores as its energy source earlier and for longer. This means that glycogen sources would be preserved and would be able to be used for energy later on in an endurance event. As glycogen is the body’s preferred energy source this could alter an endurance athletes’ performance for the better.
However, caffeine is also a diuretic, meaning that it may negate these benefits to endurance athletes. A diuretic is a substance that increases the formation of urine by preventing sodium to be absorbed by your body and therefore passing the sodium out along with water and other fluid by the body as urine. This will cause dehydration of the athlete which will decrease the performance of an endurance athlete.
There is still much debate about whether or not caffeine affects an athlete so at this stage it is really up to what works for the individual. While it has a positive effect on the performance on some athletes it is important to be wary of how and when you use it. It is vital that you are aware how your body personally responds to caffeine before you begin to use it with the intentions of enhance your performance in your workout.
Bradley Graf Elite Myotherapist