In a world broadly influenced by fitness and nutrition, the search for ingredients that improve performance is something that will never stop.
But, even though many new companies can try and sell you on new, promising products, there are a handful of substances that have been proven to work time and again. When it comes to improving athletic performance, caffeine has been one of the most used ingredients.
But How Does Caffeine Work?
Globally, caffeine is one of the most consumed stimulants, due to its innate ability to boost mood and energy levels. However, oftentimes this stimulant is used in all the wrong ways, as the modern-day way of life can be unnatural - many times forcing you "need" energy when you’re supposed to get some sleep.
There is a compound called “adenosine” that builds up throughout the day and when it binds to certain receptors, it has a unique effect: The mind & the body relax, leading to a feeling of drowsiness. And well, if you want to avoid that in a situation where you need to be active and alert, coffee seems to be the answer! In the brain, caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors which makes you feel more alert, making it a perfect choice.
Now, though the mental fog will fall off when caffeine starts peaking in your blood, this clear focus is just one aspect of training performance. Additionally, caffeine ramps up your central nervous system which is perhaps why it is proven to enhance both strength & endurance performance.
If you’ve had a good cup of coffee followed by a workout, you know what we’re talking about when we say that caffeine really is effective at enhancing athletic performance. However, due to its nature, you can easily go overboard and experience unpleasant side effects, such as:
High blood pressure
For this reason, you should stay away or at least be careful with products that contain high concentrations of caffeine - and, always stay below the maximum recommended daily intake.
For most individuals, 200-350 mg of caffeine per day would be normal and would not lead to any side effects - this is the equivalent of about 3-4 cups of coffee, or 1-2 dose of a stimulant-based pre-workout supplement.
Which Products Contain Caffeine?
Though caffeine is mostly associated with coffee, it can actually be found in a variety of other natural products, such as:
Nevertheless, coffee is one of the most accessible and abundant sources of caffeine (followed closely by energy drinks and pre-workout supplements), so your primary focus should be on finding quality beans (or reputable supplement companies)! If you don’t do that, well, someone else will - meaning, you’ll see an advertisement for the "newest, most effective" stimulant-based supplements! And you may be convinced to try it without any research.
This is due to the fact that caffeine is put at the core of many stimulant-based fitness supplements, such as Energy drinks, Pre-workout products and Isolated caffeine tablets. These are the products that can make it more likely for you to go overboard with the intake, so don’t abuse these supplements, and stay safe!
Ultimately, do your research and start on the lower end of the recommended caffeine range. Once you find something you feel comfortable trying, use it at least an hour before your workout. That way, blood caffeine levels will peak right in the middle of your workout, granting energy and focus for increased performance! And, if the dose is too low, you can try a little more - but stay in the recommend range.
And, realize that some supplements don't agree with certain folks - coffee has been know to "dry you out", pre-workouts can "make you itchy", and energy drinks can be "a little too much". So, if one doesn't work - try another! If you don't like any of them, maybe it just means you need a "stimulate-free" pre-workout. Either way, if you're making sure to fuel your body optimally, you'll get optimal results!