Effects of Caffeine on the Body During Exercise

Energy For Exercise

How Do Athletes Get Energy?

Many people rely on daily consumption of caffeine, so why not athletes? As it turns out, hardcore athletes may find an improvement in their game with this simple, inexpensive and natural performance enhancer.

What is caffeine and How Does It Work?

According to Wikipedia, caffeine “is a bitter, white crystalline purine, a methylxanthine alkaloid, and is chemically related to the adenine and guanine bases of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA).” It can be found naturally in seeds, nuts and leaves of a variety of plants which are mostly located in Africa, East Asia and South America. (Wikipedia)

Found in a variety of foods and beverages, about 90% of the U.S. population consume caffeine in one form or another on a regular basis.

Caffeine stimulates one’s central nervous system and is the most popular psychoactive drug used in the world. It can temporarily block the adenosine’s actions preventing drowsiness while at the same time stimulate parts of the autonomic nervous system.

Caffeine and Working Out

While caffeine is wildly popular with the world at large, it is even more so with athletes. Why? Because it is natural and effective. It can be absorbed in the bloodstream easily and quickly and peaks after about 90 minutes after consuming it. And those caffeine levels tend to stay at a high range for up to four hours before they begin to decline. (This explains why have a late afternoon espresso might interfere with your nighttime slumber hours later.)

When used correctly and safely, caffeine can be quite effective when it comes to exercise. Caffeine can travel all throughout one’s body including muscle cells and the brain. It can help one improve their focus, build up some energy and fight off fatigue while also improving one’s mood by increasing endorphins.

Because caffeine makes the body work harder, it also aids in the breaking down of fat cells. It does this by revving up one’s thermogenesis which also helps one to burn a lot more calories. Caffeine can be so powerful, some sports organizations have started banning it in high doses.

Caffeine and Endurance Sports

Healthline has found a number of studies related to caffeine and endurance athletes and what they found is pretty impressive. One study came to the conclusion that those who took more caffeine were able to cover between 1.3 to 2 miles more than the group that were given a placebo. Another study that involved a group of cyclists compared the effects of caffeine to carbs and water and found that caffeine helped their work load by 7.4% vs. the 5.2% of the carb group. A similar study combining caffeine with carbs found that the athletes’ performance were improved by 9% compared to the “water only” group and 4.6% compared to the “carbs only” group. (Healthline)

Then there was the test that involved coffee. A group of regular coffee drinkers faced off a group of decaf drinkers for a 1,500-meter run. The study found that the regular coffee drinkers were 4.2 seconds faster and the perception of effort of reduced as well.

Caffeine and High Intensity Sports

With the positive effects found with endurance sports, one would think the testing results would be similar with dealing with athletes who train for high intensity exercise. As it turns out, the positive effects of using caffeine was mixed.

For one, they found that caffeine worked better for those who were trained athletes as opposed to beginner exercisers. One study solely focusing on everyday recreational active men found that when tested with bike sprints, the caffeine consumers saw not difference compared to the “water only” group. But, when a similar test was given to competitive athletes, those who consumed the caffeine saw a significant improvement in time. The test was replicated with swimmers, rowers and even soccer players, and each time, it was only the trained or professional athletes that saw an improvement of their actions using caffeine.

Caffeine and Strength Exercisers

Recreational weightlifting athletes can take comfort that a number of tests involving caffeine has shown to have a positive effect depending on the exercise. For instance, one test using bench presses and lower body strength exercises, only the bench pressers saw an improvement. The conclusion (so far) appears to be that caffeine can improve the power of leg muscles up to 7% but it had relatively no real effect on the smaller muscle groups. The best news though is that the caffeine-taker were more likely to work out longer.

Caffeine and Fat Loss

One of the best benefits of taking caffeine while working out is the effect that it can have in helping on lose weight. One study has found that stored fat can be released up to 30% faster when caffeine is consumed before a workout. Another proved just the opposite in that the release of stored fast was increased at the end of a workout when one was taking a caffeine supplement.

Caffeine also has a say in how much fat a person can burn during an exercise session. Since it increases one’s heat production and epinephrine, more calories and fat is burned off. Even with this good news, the studies have not found that people who consume caffeine were able to see if caffeine would enhance their weight loss for those who kept at it for the long-term.

Supplementing with Caffeine

Finding the right amount of caffeine to consume can be tricky. Those who consume caffeine through the means of coffee, energy drinks, soda or dark chocolate tend to see less benefits than those who take supplements. The reason here is that one’s body can build up a tolerance to caffeine. Healthline recommends that one takes between 200 and 400 mg of caffeine anhydrous about an hour before a race or an event. (Healthline)

Possible Side Effects of Caffeine

Even with small amounts of caffeine, some people may experience an increased heart rate, anxiety, dizziness, insomnia, irritability, tremors or stomach discomfort. It is recommended that one starts out slow with a lower amount to caffeine and work one’s way up to 600 mg.


Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine

Livestrong – https://www.livestrong.com/article/13721829-caffeine-effects/

Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/caffeine-and-exercise