Caffeine and Athletic Performance

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caffeine & athletic performance
John Beans

Can the world’s favorite drink boost your on ice-performance?

By Tom Bolland

The benefits of caffeine on athletic performance is no new thing. Caffeine works its way into your bloodstream pretty quickly, having different effects on quite a few different parts of your body.

How Does Caffeine Work In Your Body?

With caffeine having a half-life of 6 hours, it takes a long time for your body to flush it out of your system. Caffeine levels normally peak at around an hour and a half, but stay at high levels for 3 to 4 hours afterward. These are some of the areas of your body that are affected by caffeine, and how:

The nervous system Caffeine improves focus and energy by activating areas in your brain. This will also reduce fatigue.

Muscles Caffeine can stimulate your motor cortex, which is the part of your brain responsible for muscle activation.

Glycogen Caffeine can increase endurance levels, by sparing glycogen stores and increasing how much fat is burned.

Body temperature Caffeine can also increase heat production, or more technically known as thermogenesis, which helps to burn more calories.

Endorphins Post-workout, caffeine lowers the threshold for beta-endorphin release, which can give you a bigger endorphin ‘high.’

The Effect of Caffeine on Your Metabolism

Basically, the higher your metabolism is the easier it is for you to lose weight. Plus, you can eat more before putting weight on.

Caffeine has been found to increase the levels at which we burn fat, which in turn increases our metabolism. The larger the dose, the stronger the effect; however there are a few exceptions.

It seems to be the case that the more obese you are, the less of an effect caffeine has on your metabolism. In lean people, caffeine increases fat burning by up to 29%; however, in obese individuals it was found to be around 10%.

Not only your weight but your age changes caffeine’s effect on you. The younger you are, the greater the result caffeine has on your metabolism.

Caffeine and Endurance

Caffeine having a positive effect on athletic performance has been known for awhile. In fact, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has banned caffeine in high doses.

One study conducted on endurance and caffeine found that when athletes took 9.8mg/lb, they could run 1.3 to 2 miles more than the control group. That’s a significant increase!

Another study looked at runners who competed in a 1,500-meter run. They found that regular coffee drinkers were 4.2 seconds quicker than those who drank decaf.

Caffeine Reduces Muscle Pain

As hockey players, we’ve all woken up the next day from an intense practice or game, our muscles in pain with every movement when we’ve pushed ourselves hard the night before.

It turns out a study found that consuming two cups of coffee can reduce post-workout muscle soreness by nearly 50%. That’s awesome news for those of us that struggle with muscle recovery.

Caffeine doesn’t just help post-workout recovery; it has also been found to help people push through higher volumes of exercise. Whether this is a mental effect, or because there is less lactic acid build up, is still not 100% clear.

Caffeine Promotes Concentration and Focus

There is no doubt that caffeine improves mental focus and brain function. There are studies that show caffeine to have a positive impact on the parts of the brain that are associated with memory and concentration.

One study found that athletes that consumed caffeine before an intense workout had higher levels of concentration, allowing them to sustain high levels of intensity in their workouts.

The Last Drop

Without question, caffeine can improve your athletic performance. You just need to know when to consume it, and how much.

While there are lots of studies on caffeine and athletic performance, the same cannot be said for coffee. However, what research has been conducted so far has found coffee to have the same effect on athletes as caffeine supplements. This is provided you get the correct dosage.

As well as improved athletic performance, there are many health benefits to drinking coffee. If you haven’t already included the world’s favorite drink in your diet, maybe it’s time you did!

Tom Bolland is the editor of HappyBarista.com, a website dedicated to providing information on people’s passion for coffee.

Note: Before undertaking any nutrition or exercise program, consult your healthcare provider to see if it’s right for you.

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