Caffeine, Athletic Performance, and Weight Training

athletic performance and caffeine

Does caffeine enhance athletic performance?

After all it is one of the primary ingredients in most of the 100’s of pre-workout supplements that entice athletes with extraordinary claims of increased stamina and gains.

But, does caffeine really make that much difference and is it safe to use large doses of caffeine during strenuous exercise?

Let’s take a look at what the research says as well as try to establish some safety guidelines to follow for those wishing to use caffeine to boost athletic performance.

Research on Athletic Performance and Caffeine

1. According to Journal of Applied Physiology,  athletes that consumed caffeine and carbs after strenuous exercise had 66% more glycogen in their muscles than athletes who just ingested carbs alone post workout.

Glycogen is important because it is the fuel muscles use to function. Therefore, increasing glycogen levels after a hard workout will help athletes recover faster and perform better during the following day’s workout whether they’re running ten miles, lifting weights, or simply working out in therapeutic pools.

Note: These results were found when consuming caffeine along with carbs after exercise. src.

2. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research conducted a systematic review of 29 studies related to caffeine and athletic performance.  They were trying to establish if caffeine prior to exercise acted as a performance aid. Here’s what the researchers concluded:

  • 11 out of 17 studies showed caffeine ingestion yielded significant improvements in exercise performance.
  • 6 out of 11 studies revealed benefits of caffeine use during resistance training.
  • Some studies showed decreased performance when multiple workouts were completed one after the other. src.

3. A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that caffeine increased oxidative stress and anti-inflammatory response in long distance runners after completing a 15k run. In this case caffeine was ingested prior to the run. src.

4. Another study published in The FASEB Journal  showed that caffeine doesn’t seem to help with post workout muscle protein synthesis. Basically, this means that caffeine does not help increase muscle mass. Note that this study was performed on rats, not humans. src.

5. A July 2014 study published in the Journal of Muscle and Nerve found that caffeine did increase muscle torque and activity during strength training exercise. One group of participants was given 6 mg of caffeine per kilogram of their body weight and they significantly out-performed the placebo group. Src.

6. An October 2014 study published in The Journal of Applied Physiology found that caffeine increased the level of enjoyment from exercise and caused the test subjects to burn more calories and consume less calories after exercise. Src.

7. A study published in May 2017 showed that even athletes habituated to caffeine still experienced enhanced performance benefits from a caffeine dose of 400 mg prior to cycling. 40 endurance-trained cyclists participated in the study and despite their differences in daily use of caffeine, their performance was better with the caffeine supplement than with the placebo. Src.

Safety of Large Caffeine Amounts During Exercise

workout supplement caffeine safety

Some workout products contain large doses of caffeine, sometimes over 400mg per serving. This could be a potentially dangerous combination for some people.

Since exercise raises blood pressure and so does caffeine, some people may experience dangerously high blood pressure levels due to the caffeine and exercise combined.

Steps to ensure safety when using caffeine to enhance athletic performance.

  1. Be aware of how much caffeine the product contains and your total caffeine consumption for the day. No more than 400mg is generally considered safe.
  2.  Know your heart health status including blood pressure and any heart rhythm problems prior to using workout supplements.
  3. Understand your tolerance to caffeine. Athletes would be wise to start with a 1/2 serving of a particular supplement and assess how his/her body reacts.
  4. Heed the product warning label and consume no more than the recommended daily serving.

Note: Some workout supplements have multiple stimulants in them such as yohimbe. This can further amplify the potential negative side effects of the product.

While there is some evidence that caffeine may aid in increasing athletic performance in some sports, caution should be used by athletes who wish to use caffeine while exercising.

For some athletes the gains might not be worth the health risk.

See Also: Caffeine in Workout Supplements Guide

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    When i drink energy drinks before/after, it helps keep me from feeling sore too, caffeine ftw!

  • Dudewithareallyreallylongscreenname

    +1 Hobo! 😀

    I hope my track coach reads this! He gets mad when he sees me chugging energy drinks before I run the mile. He claims it’s “bad for you”. 🙁

  • Dusty

    The one thing keeping me from downing a lot of caffeine before an activity is it makes you thirsty!

  • Jimmy

    A good solution to that is being able to have some water during the activity, or to have a break to drink some water.

  • Andrew

    one thing i hate is that when you drink a bunch of coffee or something, it makes you have to use the bathroom alot. and i cant use the bathroom during practice.

  • The Nerd That Read the Article

    So I read the abstract to the article to see how much caffeine I should be drinking during my exercise. And, holy crap, here’s how much they used:

    8 mg/kg body mass

    So, if I understand this correctly, an athlete with my weight (170 lbs = 77.11 kg) should drink about 617mg of caffeine. That’s just under a four-pack of Monster.

    So the conclusion of this blog should read “drink two of your favorite energy drink before and two after.” Except that these athletes had a team of medical types monitoring them as they did that, so you probably shouldn’t try it at home.

  • Leo

    Or you could not waste money and just buy a bottle of No Doz.

  • Ed

    a solution to all of the problems stated above:
    -coaches get mad about chugging energy drinks
    -caffeine makes you thirsty/good solution would be to have water with caffeine
    -makes you go to the bathroom during practice
    theres a company called HYDRIVE that makes this non-carbonated energy drink. it’s pretty much like a low calorie gatorde (without all the sugar, sodium and calories) with caffeine. the lemon lime actually tastes like a gatorade lemon lime. has about 145 mg of caffeine and it made with purified water. for the guy who doesn’t like going to the bathroom during practice from drinking coffee they have energy chews. apparently they made them for truck drivers so they didn’t have to stop for bathroom breaks when on the road. anyway they give away free samples if you email them. try the kiwi strawberry it’s sick

  • Madhav Devkota

    As I have connected in coffee profession since ten years,I am consuming brewed coffee about 3 to 5 cups in regular basis.Sometimes I am worried whether it makes me any side effect later on.please help me to clear my confusion.

  • ted

    Studies have shown that 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day actually decreases women’s risks of some diseases.

  • Tyler Hill

    i found that this is a load of shit, Athletes dont like drinking energy drinks before they run because they loose their speed. i know this for sure

  • ted

    I think they would want to “loose” their speed……

  • Becca

    Uh, I drink a Red Bull before EVERY marathon! Hasn’t slowed me down yet.

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Last Modified: June 1, 2017