Many of us enjoy a few cups of tea or coffee throughout the day, but have you ever considered the benefits of caffeine when working out?
There’s a fine line between too little and too much caffeine, so we grabbed some time with the caffeine experts at TrueStart Performance Coffee to find out exactly how caffeine helps in training, the difference between synthetic and natural caffeine and how you should be using it in your workout. As always, we aim to provide a balanced view at Move so it’s worth remembering that caffeine, like all stimulants can have some dangerous effects on the body when misused.
So, what are the core benefits of caffeine for sport?
There are 3 well-researched core benefits of caffeine for exercise:
- Improving focus & mental performance
- Increasing physical endurance
- Reducing rate of perceived exertion
These all mean you can train harder for longer! A lesser known fact is how caffeine can help with muscle recovery; by increasing the rate at which your body replenishes muscle glycogen. Having caffeine post-workout helps your muscles recover faster, so it's ideal if you're training most days of the week.
What’s the difference between the caffeine in coffee and the caffeine in my regular energy or pre workout drink?
There are two types of caffeine, synthetic and natural. Both have a different effect on your body so it’s good to know the difference:
- Synthetic caffeine has both its benefits and negatives. Synthetic caffeine is produced in a laboratory and then added to your energy drink or pre workout.
The good thing about synthetic caffeine is that it is regulated – you’re guaranteed a certain level of caffeine and know exactly what you are getting.
The not so good thing about synthetic caffeine is that it is absorbed really quickly in to your blood stream, meaning you can peak then crash more quickly. Not ideal half way through a workout!
- Natural caffeine is found in coffee, tea, cocoa and approximately 60 other plant species. It’s a completely natural occurring element.
Natural caffeine is great because it is slow releasing in to your blood stream, ensuring a more sustained boost and allowing you to train harder for longer.
However, the natural caffeine in regular tea and coffee is completely unregulated. A single cup of coffee can vary from less than 20mg to over 300mg of caffeine! Until now this has made natural caffeine an unreliable performance enhancer for athletes, and it’s this unpredictability that gave Helena and Simon Hills the idea for coffee designed specifically for sports performance, with a controlled level of natural caffeine. They’ve taken the plus points of both synthetic and natural caffeine and found a solution; Coffee you can rely on as a natural alternative to an energy drink or pre workout!
Ok, sounds good. But what’s the right amount of caffeine for me?
The right amount of caffeine varies from person to person. It's crucial to regulate your intake though, as too much caffeine results in those overdose effects that we’re all familiar with, such as jitteriness or heart palpitations. On the other hand, if you don't have enough caffeine prior to exercise, you won’t be able to enjoy the beneficial effects it has on your performance.
Helena and Simon recommend starting with one scoop and seeing how that goes, which you can increase (or decrease) depending on your body’s needs.
Widely accepted research suggests that 2-3mg per kilogram of body weight is optimal for sports performance and The European Food Standards Agency have recommended no more than 400mg per day for general use.
When should I boost my caffeine levels?
Caffeine takes about 45 minutes to fully absorb and remains in your blood stream for 5.7 hours. That's why if you are going to take a caffeine supplement it should be about 30 minutes before training to achieve optimal performance and endurance from the start, keeping yourself topped up as and when required during your session. A cup afterwards will also help accelerate recovery of aching muscles, not to mention sort you out for the rest of the day.