What is Caffeine
A stimulant/drug that boosts metabolism. In moderate doses Caffeine can enhance mental focus, energy, and coordination by increasing CNS (central nervous system) activity.
The Caffeine Claim: Caffeine boosts the metabolism and can help you burn more calories. Caffeine before a workout can increase strength and power levels, leading to more weight lifted over time.
Caffeine is a very well researched substance. The research suggests caffeine can, in people who are not yet tolerant to the effects of it, provide a powerful workout/training boost, both in physical performance, mental focus. It can also provide a metabolic boost which can aid in short term weight loss.
- Caffeine can boost metabolism and may, in conjunction with a caloric deficit, can promote fat loss because of the metabolic boost. One study showed about 3 cups of coffee spikes metabolism by about double([1. Acheson KJ, et al. Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals. Am J Clin Nutr. (1980)]). However, the metabolic boost dies off after the initial phase.
- Caffeine, with a calorie deficit, may promote fat loss in the initial phase but over the long term, the weight loss effects (boosted metabolism) die out: Study shows caffeine’s effects on metabolism are not sustainable over long term([2. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Lejeune MP, Kovacs EM. Body weight loss and weight maintenance in relation to habitual caffeine intake and green tea supplementation. Obes Res. (2005)]). More support for this another study show fat loss did not occur when caffeine is used for a long period. One study for 24 weeks of 200mg caffeine intake did not result in fat loss([3. Astrup A, et al. The effect and safety of an ephedrine/caffeine compound compared to ephedrine, caffeine and placebo in obese subjects on an energy restricted diet. A double blind trial. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (1992)]).
- May increase power output for explosive type movements: Studies are a bit mixed here. One study showed when bench pressing you could complete 3 more repetitions than if you didn’t ingest caffeine pre-workout([4. Duncan MJ, Oxford SW. Acute Caffeine ingestion enhances performance and dampens muscle pain following resistance exercise to failure. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. Jun 2012; 52(3): 280-5. ]). However the studies are mixed, with some showing no benefit ([5. Astorino T, Rohmann R, Firth, K. Effects of caffeine ingestion on one repetition maximum muscular strength. EU J App Phys. Jan 2008. V102;2, 127-32]) and others showing a clear benefit ([6. Davis J, Green J. Caffeine and Anaerobic Performance. Sports Medicine. Oct 2009. V39;10, 813-832.])
- May increase strength endurance for strength training where lifts are not near maximum: At sub maximal strength, caffeine may increase performance output by about 11-12 percent([5. [Astorino TA, Rohmann RL, Firth K. Effect of caffeine ingestion on one-repetition maximum muscular strength. Eur J Appl Physiol. (2008)])
- May counter the negative effects of a bad sleep in the gym: Caffeine may counter an individual’s impaired performance of power and workload in the gym due to lack of sleep, but only if that individual feels the effects of caffeine (i.e. not used to caffeine)([6. Cook C, et al. Acute caffeine ingestion increases voluntarily chosen resistance training load following limited sleep. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. (2012)])
- May enhance performance in endurance-related activities: For individuals who have not reached a tolerance state towards caffeine, endurance performance as measured in time to exhaustion can be significantly enhanced (1.2- 1.4 times) by supplementing with caffeine 6 hours before. The doses given in study are 2.5mg/kg caffeine per body weight and 5mg/kg caffeine per bodyweight([7. Exercise endurance 1, 3, and 6 h after caffeine ingestion in caffeine users and nonusers]).
Caffeine can boost exercise performance and weight loss, if intake is cycled to prevent tolerance
Caffeine is one of the most studied substances out of all the supplements.
Caffeine bestows a number of benefits when it comes to strength, endurance, and fat loss efforts according to several studies. However, for caffeine to provide benefits, an individual must NOT have reached a tolerance level, which occurs when individuals no longer respond to effects of caffeine, even when dosage is increased.
There is a clear benefit that caffeine has towards both endurance and strength type activities which are worth noting. Strength activates like bench press might see the possibility of additional reps completed at a sub-maximal power level (i.e. not one rep max). Caffeine has not been shown to increase maximum power (1 rep max) in studies, however. Endurance activities see improvement in time till exhausting of 1.2 to 1.4 times (almost 40 percent longer at the higher threshold) at VO2 max of 80 percent.
Caffeine can also boost fat loss in individuals by increasing base metabolism. This affect is short term, however, and tapers off as the individual becomes more tolerant towards caffeine.
Research also shows caffeine can help counter the effects of a bad night sleep in the gym or training, if you are not reached tolerance level of caffeine.
If you don’t want to sleep, take caffeine. This is the only effect caffeine has on both those tolerant and not tolerant to it.
How to Get Your Caffeine
While you might consider brewing your own coffee or using a good espresso machine to brew some concentrated caffeinated espressos (my preferred way to get a caffeine boost) to get your caffeine boost, the truth is that the amount of caffeine you get from coffee — no matter the type of coffee — probably won’t be enough to boost your workout performance beyond the simple mental stimulation.
You need between 2-5 mg per kilo of bodyweight. That means someone who’s 80 kilos is going to need between 160 mg to 350 mg of caffeine to see the performance benefits.
A regular cup of coffee contains about 85 mg of caffeine while an espresso has about 50 mg.
That means you are going to need to drink about 3-5 cups of coffee or consume 4 to 7 espressos to get ‘enough’ caffeine for the performance boost.
A caffeine pill, on the other hand, usually gives 200 mg of caffeine per pill — enough that popping one or two will give you the required amount of caffeine to ‘boost’ your performance.
Now, there are a lot of health benefits to drinking moderate amounts of coffee, both from the caffeine and the antioxidants contained in the coffee. A caffeine pill is just the caffeine and lacks those other benefits.
But most people will find it hard to drink enough coffee to see tangible benefits from the caffeine. However, a couple cups of coffee in the morning may help boost your alertness — especially if you’ve had a bad sleep.
But if you want to try caffeine out as a performance enhancer, we recommend taking caffeine pills or drinking a ton of coffee (and too much coffee may be bad for you…).
SHOULD YOU SUPPLEMENT WITH CAFFEINE
If you have an upcoming competition (endurance based or strength based), you want to boost metabolism for short term weight loss benefits, or you want to push more (non-1 rep max) weight in the gym. The research does show caffeine can boost workouts which can likely lead to improved muscle gain over time. However, for it to be effective you will have to cycle use on and off.
SHOULD YOU SUPPLEMENT WITH CAFFEINE FOR MUAY THAI?
if you fight or participate in competitions. If you regularly drink coffee, tea, energy drinks or other caffeinated beverages, you will have to cycle your consumption of these, however.
To take advantage of caffeine’s strength and endurance performance enhancements, you’ll need to cycle the use of caffeine so you are not using it for a period of time then ingest it a few hours before the competition.
As a fat loss agent, you can use caffeine for short periods with a caloric deficit to boost the number of calories you burn. The effects won’t last much longer than a month, likely, however. But if done right, you could use it to drop body fat in a short period of time.
if you don’t compete or fight Muay Thai or you are not trying to gain a fat loss boost for a short period of time, there is little reason to supplement with caffeine – assuming you do not drink coffee or tea habitually already.