Caffeine keeps the world turning. Some people base their entire productive output potential on the amount of caffeine they consume. It is a drug, complete with highs, lows and addictions, but it is also legal and socially acceptable.

Masses of athletes utilize caffeine daily, not only in coffee and energy drinks to get through the daily grind, but also in the form of pills, supplements and foods. Caffeine can also serve as a fat burner and appetite suppressant for some, which is especially inviting for competitors that have to meet a weight requirement.

Studies generally suggest that a moderate dose of three milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight may improve athletic performance and endurance. In an 84- kilogram or 185-pound man this would be about 252 milligrams of caffeine. For reference, a Starbucks grande (16 ounce) coffee has about 330 milligrams. At this level research shows that performance my increase, but very little if any metabolic changes occur.

There are two main reasons that competitive athletes would choose to supplement their caffeine intake, aside from being able to stay awake outside of long grueling hours of practice. Here are some of them.

Effects on Workout and Performance

At one time caffeine was on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) list of forbidden substances, with the blood-level equivalent of eight cups of coffee serving as enough to get an athlete banned from the Games. Though caffeine is no longer banned, the ICO still tests for the substance, reserving the right to re-ban caffeine if it starts finding elevated levels in a large number of competitors.

The affects of caffeine typically last five to six hours without the energy drain of an extensive workout. Even then, the boost should last through the entire session. Studies suggest that caffeine’s effects on the central nervous system may contribute to the ability to push harder in short duration activities and may also slightly bunt pain perception. The vast majority of pre-workout supplements contain between 100-350 milligrams of caffeine.

Reduced Muscle Fatigue and Lactic Acid Build Up

Caffeine reduces the muscles' consumption of glycogen, which is the stored energy used up during exercise. There is a limited amount of glycogen available in the muscle, and once it is used up, muscle fatigue sets in. Caffeine assists the body in tapping into its own fat reserves as energy, which reduces the glycogen rate. This process is called “glycogen sparring” and serves to delay muscle fatigue.

One of caffeine’s short-term benefits is a reduction in lactic acid build up. As glycogen is depleted lactic acid builds up in the muscle. This is the cause of the burning sensation you feel in your muscles during and after a workout. A University of Illinois study conducted in 2009 found that 300 milligrams of caffeine taken prior to a workout reduced the amount of burning felt by participants in the study.


About Bryanna:

Bryanna Fissori is a professional mixed martial artist based out of Honolulu, Hawaii, where she teaches children's Jiu Jitsu and women's self defense amongst her many other activities. Fissori is also a full time veterinary technician, content writer and a proud Olympian Labs Ambassador Athlete.