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The Effects of Caffeine on Your Training Routine

Hey all – had a little break from writing as my wife Jess fell pregnant. I’m getting ready to become a dad for the first time and with all the sleep deprivation that comes with that territory in mind, I thought I would give you a little piece on how caffeine affects your gym performance. I’ve seen you all in the local coffee shops…

For many people, the first thing they do after waking up in the morning is have a cup of coffee, in many cases followed by one or more cups during the day, until it’s time for bed again. A cup of coffee gives us the feeling of being more energetic, and that’s mainly because of coffee’s main ingredient, caffeine. So, with caffeine being such a powerful, natural stimulant, we’ll have a quick look at the potential effects of it on your workout routine.

Endurance

Various researches, including one conducted by researchers at Rice University in Houston, Texas, have shown that caffeine does not seem to benefit short-term, high-intensity exercises, but that it can have a considerable effect on endurance-based performances. This has to do with how caffeine is absorbed by the body. In the human body, glycogen is the primary fuel, and fat the second. Under normal circumstances, the body will start burning fat once all glycogen reserves have been depleted. What caffeine does is encourage the muscles, so to say, to use fat as a fuel before all glycogen has been used up. In other words, caffeine delays the depletion of glycogen reserves in the body, resulting in a longer potential exercise span.

Cognitive Functioning

From the blood stream, caffeine is absorbed by almost all the bodily tissues, causing a direct impact on the nervous system and the brain. The department of Kinesiology at the University of Illinois studied the effects of caffeine on cognitive capacities, and concluded that consuming it did not only make the participants more alert and quicker in their reactions, but that it also lowered their perception of pain as a result of strenuous exercise (which relates to the point made in the previous paragraph).

Are there any side effects?

First of all, the considerable benefits discussed previously have been proven and known for a while, but each individual is different. There exist an infinite amount of combinations of variables, such a metabolism, diet, and frequency of consumption, and caffeine can have a different effect on each of them. This means that the effect of caffeine on one person’s workout might be completely different compared to the effect it has on someone else’s workout.

Second of all, caffeine, especially in larger quantities, is considered a mild diuretic. This means that it can encourage an increased excretion of sodium by the kidneys, which in turn can result in symptoms of dehydration. Usually, in average adults and when not consumed in large quantities, there should be no problem, but it could have an effect on the quality of your workout routine.
Finally, and again this mostly applies to cases when above-average amounts of caffeine are being consumed, a sudden discontinuation of caffeine consumption might result in symptoms of withdrawal, such as fatigue and headaches. While these are only temporary and not a real obstacle under normal circumstances, they will have a negative impact on training exercises.

So in conclusion, use caffeine to your advantage. But, as with most things try not to over-do it.

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