Caffeine: A True Ergogenic Aid?

Posted by Dr. Rick Kattouf II on 8/4/2017 to News
Caffeine: A True Ergogenic Aid?

Caffeine: A True Ergogenic Aid?

by Dr. Rick Kattouf II


Understandably so, athletes and fitness enthusiasts are always in search of a boost in energy and performance. More often than not, caffeine is the go-to for athletes. But, is caffeine truly an ergogenic aid and is it safe? (Coffee drinkers, take a deep breath, it’s all good!)

 

First off, what is an ergogenic aid? As defined by the medical dictionary, an ergogenic aid is an agent that can enhance work output, particularly as it relates to athletic performance. And as defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, ergogenic is defined as, enhancing physical performance. Caffeine and Creatine, for example, are two popular ergogenic aids.

 

According to ACSM, caffeine may be the most widely used stimulant in the world. It can come in many forms such as coffee, nutrition supplements, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks and chocolate. Caffeine can reach its highest levels in the blood approximately one hour after ingestion. It can have a stimulant effect on the brain as well as affect blood pressure, pulse rate, stomach acid production and fat stores. Many athletes use caffeine as a potential ergogenic aid and performance enhancer.

 

Performance

Caffeine may help mobilize fat stores, enabling the body to use fat as its primary fuel source. By utilizing fat as fuel, this allows the body to spare glycogen, which is an additional fuel source for the body stored in the muscles and liver. (A must read, “Why Athletes Need Carbohydrates”). By delaying muscle glycogen depletion, exercise can be prolonged enabling the athlete to go harder, longer, faster and perform more reps before fatigue. Glycogen sparing is most crucial in the first 15 minutes of exercise (a big reason by working out in the proper heart rate zones is so critical for success). This is when caffeine can help significantly decrease glycogen depletion. Even though caffeine reaches its highest levels in the blood 45-60 after ingestion, some research suggests consuming caffeine 3+ hours before exercise is most beneficial. The reason is that caffeine may have a maximum effect on fat stores several hours after peak blood levels.

 

The Journal of the international Society of Sports Nutrition says that caffeine in the amount equivalent to 1-3 cups of coffee lowers heart rate during submaximal exercise but not at near maximal or maximal exercise. The effects of caffeine were measured during dynamic leg exercise on a cycle ergometer. According to the Journal of Applied Physiology, no significant differences were noted in terms of heart rate.

 

Recent work, according to the ACSM, on well-trained athletes reported that 3-9mg caffeine per kg (kilogram) of body weight one-hour prior to exercise increased running and cycling endurance in the laboratory.


Recovery

Caffeine may also help assist in enhancing recovery after exercise. According to the American Physiological Society, 4-hours post-exercise, muscle glycogen increased 66 percent by ingesting a carbohydrate drink containing caffeine as compared to the carbohydrate-only drink (yes folks, we need carbohydrates to recover; we do not want to toss back a mound of protein post workout). This type of increase in muscle glycogen can help to expedite recovery and it will help to make the next day's workout that much more productive. The carbohydrate and caffeine drink post-exercise also resulted in higher blood glucose and plasma insulin.

 

Side Effects

Each individual can respond differently to caffeine. It can have many side effects such as poor sleep quality, gastrointestinal distress, fatigue, headaches, muscle cramping, dehydration and anxiety. Caffeine can also have a diuretic effect by increasing blood flow to the kidneys and inhibiting the reabsorption of sodium and water. According to the AMA Council on Scientific Affairs, moderate consumption of caffeine likely has no negative effect on one's health, as long as an otherwise healthy nutrition and fitness lifestyle is followed.

 

Is It Legal in Competition?

Based on information provided by the IOC (International Olympic Committee), athletes are allowed up to 12 ug (micorgrams) caffeine per milliliter urine before it is considered illegal (15 ug as per the NCAA).  These limits allow athletes to consume ‘normal’ amounts of caffeine prior to competition.

 

In summary, caffeine may help assist in performance and recovery. As with any supplement/drug, be sure to use responsibly and always consult with your physician if you have any questions regarding caffeine use and your known medical condition(s), current medications, etc.

 

WORKOUT SMART, EAT RIGHT, GET RESULTS®!

 

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Rick Kattouf II, O.D. is a 2x Best-Selling Author and Fitness & Nutrition expert and has been named one of America’s PremierExperts® and one of the World Fitness Elite® Trainers of the Year. He has been seen on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates around the country as well as in the USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Ironman.com, Livestrong.com, FIGHT! Magazine, Florida Cycling Magazine and The Independent in the UK. Rick is the CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf® Inc, CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf® Nutrition LLC, CEO/Founder of Virtual Gym LLC, Creator of TeamKattouf® Nutrition Supplements, Host of Rx Nutrition, author of Forever Fit, Creator of 5-Round Fury® Nutrition Supplement, 5-Round Fury Fitness® workout app, Creator of Coach2CEO, Creator of Fuel Keeper®, Entrepreneur and Inspirational Speaker. Dr. Rick has personally coached individuals in 30+ states and 10+ countries.

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