Caffeine and Performance
Coffee anyone? If you’re anything like me, you probably start the day with a caffeine kick. It gets me going, keeps me awake and helps me to focus. Many people would agree, as caffeine is one of the world's most widely consumed stimulants. Caffeine can be used in a multitude of settings, including in the fitness world. We’ve been speaking to our friends at Optimum Nutrition to get the ins and outs of the world's favourite pick me up.
So what is a stimulant and where do we find it? 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine more commonly known as caffeine, is the chemical compound responsible for that energy buzz you feel half an hour after a coffee. It does this by stimulating (as the name suggests) your central nervous system, which results in increased cognitive function (brain power!) and improved alertness. No wonder we feel like we can't function without it.
Caffeine is found naturally in over 60 plants, and can also be found in seeds. The more common ones are coffee beans and tea leaves, but it can also be found in kola nuts, cocoa beans and guarana. Nowadays caffeine is readily available in a wide range of food and drinks on the market!
Why Use Caffeine?
I’ve already touched lightly on my personal reasons for consuming caffeine, but like everything, everyone is different and the reasons behind using caffeine differs from person to person. Lots of people (like myself) use caffeine as part of their morning routine. Some use it as a midday pick me up when the energy starts to dip. Students may use it to aid concentration for a certain study day or exam. Whatever the reason usually involves energy levels.
The same goes for the fitness world. Despite all the benefits we talk about above, when it comes to physical activity caffeine has another superpower. Caffeine is known as an ‘ergogenic aid’, sounds complex doesn't it? Don’t fear, it just means it aids the body's performance during physical activity. Athletes often use it tactically for the demands of exceptional physical feats; high intensity activity, improves endurance, competitions etc.
Timing of Caffeine Intake
Like everything in the fitness world, timing matters. As we said before, everyone is different and the same goes for caffeine. Everyone metabolises caffeine at different rates, so the routine you build with consumption is personal to you. Despite this, what we do know… caffeine is most effective when consumed before exercise. This is because it takes at least fifteen minutes (and up to 2 hours!) to have a stimulating effect. After these effects have started, the kick lasts approximately four to six hours. It sounds sensible to give the caffeine time to take effect before you start exercising. We hope this has given you a starting point for developing your caffeine fitness routine, but just remember to listen to your own body.
How Much Caffeine is Right for You?
Similarly with timing, amount is equally important. The amount of caffeine you consume is dependent on a lot of personal factors, including how much activity you take part in, and your body’s weight and size. People can be more or less sensitive to caffeine, but a general consensus is that 75-200 mg is a good starting point to aid endurance, energy and focus. Some people might feel really energised from a simple cup of coffee, others may be reaching for the caffeine packed pre-workout. Start slow and see what works for you.
For many fitness fanatics, the use of natural caffeines in food and drinks is not enough, so they use supplements as well. Many supplements on the market now are easily customisable, so you can increase or decrease amounts as desired. Always make sure you read the label to see the amount of caffeine listed, as consuming over your tolerance can cause negative effects. Too much caffeine can cause nervousness/ anxiety, irritability, rapid heartbeat and can interrupt your sleep pattern.
So caffeine is a big part of a lot of people's lives. Not only can it improve your work ethic and make getting through the day a little easier… It can also improve your fitness routine. Thank you to Optimum Nutrition for the valuable information. Hopefully you are a bit clearer on the when and how much caffeine, and are ready to start incorporating it into your healthy lifestyle.