Caffeine to boost your Athletic Performance

Nothing delivers a bigger kick in the pants before a workout than caffeine. It’s no wonder that caffeinated pills and drinks are the most common supplement category among bodybuilders, athletes, and gym-goers. Study after study has shown that caffeine can increase alertness, sharpen focus, improve mood, improve tolerance for pain caused by exercise, help burn fat, and help athletes do more work for longer periods in the gym and in sports.


How does it affect performance?

Caffeine works on the central nervous system by promoting spinal cord excitability and muscle fiber recruitment, while decreasing perceptions of fatigue and muscle pain. It’s been demonstrated to improve physical performance in all manner of sports while also delaying mental fatigue.

Caffeine can improve performance in a variety of sports and delay fatigue.

Among the benefits it has been shown to provide are:

  • Endurance athletes improved performance by an average of 3.3 percent (some reported up to 17 percent increases).
  • Strength and power sports performance improved up to 20 percent.
  • Sprinters improved performance on average by 6.5 percent.
  • Weightlifters improved performance on average by 9.5 percent.
  • Rate of perceived exertion (fatigue) is decreased by 6 percent on average.

Are there any side effects?

Taking too much caffeine can contribute to anxiety, as most of us discovered in our initial youthful dalliances. However, there are several other considerations you should be aware of.

1. Hydration

Caffeine has been shown to have a slight diuretic effect, which is thought to lead to dehydration, but the effect is marginal. Caffeinated beverages have been shown to hydrate just as well as non-caffeinated beverages. Still, it’s a good idea to increase your consumption of liquids when using caffeine, especially if you train in a hot and humid environment.

2. Addiction

Caffeine is addictive, and withdrawal can occur in habitual consumers of more than 200 mg per day. Symptoms can last for 2-9 days, and include headaches, anxiety, depression, and cravings. You can alleviate these side effects by weaning off the dosage until the desired amount is reached.

3. Sleep

Some of us metabolize caffeine quickly, while others are slow metabolizers. How dramatically it affects you, and for how long, will vary person by person. If you’re extremely sensitive to caffeine or are prone to anxiety, limit your consumption. This may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many people wonder why they aren’t sleeping well while the answer is right in front of them.

Caffeine to boost your Athletic Performance

If you’re extremely sensitive to caffeine, limit your overall consumption and don’t use it before you hit the hay.

How should I take it?

If you’re like most people, you don’t need me to tell you how to take caffeine, because you’re already doing it. But, from an athletic perspective, here are a couple points to consider to maximize your performance:


You can start feeling the effects of caffeine with as little as 20 mg (0.3 mg/kg of bodyweight). If you’ve never used it before, start with the lowest dose and work up accordingly.

The benefits of caffeine appear to be maxed out at around 200 mg (3 mg/kg of bodyweight), with no additional benefits coming at much higher doses. At very high doses (6 mg/kg of bodyweight or 400 mg4) caffeine may start to decrease performance, and increase anxiety and cortisol. You may not think that applies to you, but many people take multiple caffeinated substances without realizing how much total caffeine they ingest.

Do you take a 100 mg cup of coffee, 150 mg fat-burner, and 200 mg (or more) pre-workout in the same morning? That’s a lot of caffeine. If you experience symptoms like shaking, anxiety, nervousness, or heart palpitations, cut back on the dosage.


Caffeine levels in your bloodstream peak approximately 60-90 minutes after consumption. Therefore, you should take it 1-2 hours prior to your training.

Remember that caffeine has a relatively long half-life of about six hours, which means that if you take a 200 mg tablet at 6 p.m., you’ll still have half that amount in your body at midnight. It can affect your sleep cycle if you’re not careful.


Surajit Jana.

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