Caffeine for Athletes – Good or Bad?
When you are completely exhausted or unmotivated to go to boxing class, where do you turn? Caffeine. Some people base their entire productive output on the amount of caffeine they consume. Caffeine is a drug, complete with highs, lows, and addictions. But it is legal, socially acceptable and a staple for many athletes.
A good number of athletes utilize caffeine daily. A “cup of Joe” is not the only way to wake up. Supplement companies are cashing in big on the need to energize before a workout. Caffeine for athletes is found in pre-workout powders, pills, drink, and even food. It can also serve as a fat burner and appetite suppressant, which is especially inviting for fighters cutting weight.
How Much Caffeine is Normal?
Studies suggest that a moderate dose of three milligrams per kilogram of body weight may improve athletic performance and endurance. In an 84- kilogram or 185-pound man this would be about 252 milligrams. For reference, a Starbucks grande coffee has about 330 milligrams.
At the 252 milligram level, research shows that performance may increase, but very little if any metabolic changes occur. Energy drinks boast anywhere from 80 milligrams to a scary 400 milligrams per can. The FDA lists 400 milligrams as the maximum dose for an adult, though only 200 milligrams is recommended.
Caffeine for Athletes Used to be banned in the Olympics
At one time caffeine was on the Olympics’ list of forbidden substances, with the blood-level equivalent of eight cups of coffee serving as enough to get an athlete banned from the Games.
Caffeine for athletes is no longer banned, but the International Olympic Committee still tests for the substance. They reserve the right to re-ban caffeine if it starts finding elevated levels in a large number of competitors.
In 2017 caffeine was placed in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) monitoring program. Given the vast numbers of stimulants available to athletes, WADA is concerned that there may be an issue with improper use.
Effect Training and Performance
Depending on dosage and personal tolerance, effects of caffeine typically last five to six hours. That is without the energy drain of a hard boxing workout. Even then, the boost should last through the entire session.
Studies suggest that caffeine’s effects on the central nervous system may contribute to the ability to push harder in short duration activities and slightly bunt pain perception. The vast majority of pre-workout supplements contain between 100-350 milligrams of caffeine.
Reduced Muscle Fatigue and Lactic Acid Build Up
Caffeine reduces the muscles’ consumption of glycogen, which is the stored energy used up during exercise. There is a limited amount of glycogen available in the muscle. Once it is used up, muscle fatigue sets in. Caffeine assists the body in tapping into its own fat reserves as energy, which reduces the glycogen rate. This process is called “glycogen sparring” and serves to delay muscle fatigue.
One of caffeine’s short-term benefits is a reduction in lactic acid build up. As glycogen is depleted, lactic acid builds up in the muscle. This is the cause of the burning sensation you feel in your muscles during and after a workout. A University of Illinois study conducted in 2009 found that 300 milligrams of caffeine taken prior to a workout reduced the amount of burning felt by participants in the study.
Should Athletes use Caffeine?
Everything in moderation. If caffeine use creates a dependency this could cause serious problems in sleep cycles and post-workout recovery. Be honest with yourself about your actual intake and enjoy your training session bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
More Training and Conditioning
Use a Pre-Workout to Help Kill it in Boxing Class
By Bryanna Fissori
A pre-workout is some form of a consumable substance that is formatted to boost your performance during your workout, or at least get you motivated.
There are a plethora to choose from, all complete with unique colors and flavors. There are natural foods that will help boost energy and performance, but the term “pre-workout” typically relates to powder that you mix into water and drink 15 to 30 minutes before a workout session.
What is in Pre Workout Powder?
The big boost of energy that comes from a pre-workout is highly instigated by caffeine. The compounds in caffeine work by blocking the neurotransmitters for adenosine, which serves the purpose of making the body tired. Caffeine has also been found to have some effect on promoting weight loss. The amount in pre-workout differs for each brand but typically ranges between 150 and 350mg per dose. Because of this, it is a good idea to adjust your scoop of pre-workout to your desired level of caffeination.
This is the substance responsible for the “tingly feeling” you may get shortly after taking a pre-workout supplement. The good news is that the tingles are relatively short-lived. Beta-Alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that helps to delay the onset of muscle fatigue, meaning you can train at a higher intensity longer without your muscles getting tired.
Having enough niacin (Vitamin B3) in your system is important for general good health. Niacin helps the dilation of blood vessels for an extra “pump” during hard workouts. It also promotes energy, potential weight loss and is proved to be beneficial for skin health, prevention of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Niacin may also be the culprit for the warm feeling on your face after taking a pre-workout.
A staple for most bodybuilders, creatine is known to hydrate muscles, increasing size and strength. There are also studies showing improved performance with shorter workouts, but less variance for endurance athletes. Creatine may also assist in muscle recovery after a hard workout session.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) are the building blocks for protein synthesis. They also assist in reducing the rate of protein breakdown. Increased protein synthesis and reduced breakdown means more muscles and less body fat. That sounds pretty awesome. Another positive thing about BCAA’s is that they are also available in a non-stimulant form and can be added to your drinking water any time during the day.
These are the most common ingredients that make up powdered pre-workout, but each brand boasts their own unique formula.
Other key ingredients may include L-Arginine, Citrulline, Agmatine Sulfate, Theanine, Glycerol and Taurine to name a few.
Deciding and Dosing a Pre Workout
The important thing about deciding on a pre-workout is determining what your body is going to react to the best. Sometimes too much of one ingredient can cause undesirable effects. For example, if you are sensitive to beta-alanine, you will find that having a full serving of a pre-workout that is high in the substance will result in an uncomfortable level of tingling throughout the body. Too much caffeine may cause jitters.
We recommend you start your pre-workout supplementation by using only half the recommended dose for the first workout or two, in order to evaluate how your body responds.