How Does Caffeine Benefit Exercise Performance?

Grab a cuppa, get comfortable and let’s dive right into how caffeine can benefit your next workout. ☕️


What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that can be found in fruit, leaves, coffee beans, cacao and guarana plants. Alongside increasing the activity in your brain and nervous system, the circulation of chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline around the body are also increased. It is rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream upon consumption and peaks at around 30-120 minutes before lasting for around 3-4 hours prior to dropping. 

By working on your nervous system, it binds and blocks A1 and A2A receptors in your brain to enhance your performance. Blocking the A1 receptors results in reduced feelings of sleepiness and increases endurance. Blocking the A2A receptors increases dopamine and epinephrine (adrenaline) release which results in increasing power and focus. However, if you consume too much, the receptors in your body become desensitized to the caffeine and won’t be affected. 

The fat stores in your body are prioritized as the main fuel source rather than glycogen, which allows for your body to fatigue slower. As a result, your body can perform harder and faster and more reps can be executed. 

Effects of Caffeine on Our Body

Consumption of caffeine affects everyone in a different way, but typically doses range between 1-3mg of caffeine per kg of body weight for optimal performance improvement.

Some common effects include but are not limited to:

  • Activating the nervous system in order to reduce tiredness while increasing focus and energy.
  • Increasing the circulation of the adrenaline hormone (fight or flight) to improve performance.
  •  Burning fat via lipolysis, otherwise known as the breakdown of fat in fat cells,
  • Activating the Central Nervous System to promote muscle performance.
  • Increasing beta-endorphins released during exercise which can give you an exercise “high” at the end of your workout.
  • Increasing body temperature through thermogenesis which can help in burning calories.
  • Sparing muscle carbohydrate stores, due to increases in fat burning.

5 Benefits of Caffeine on Exercise Performance

  • Performance speed is improved   
    • By reducing glycogen consumption in the first 15 minutes of exercise, there are more present for the muscles to use later on, extending endurance.
    • Producing an adrenaline-like effect which increases calcium secretion into the muscles, as a result enhancing strength and power of the muscles.
  • Fat is burnt faster
    • As caffeine helps you exercise longer and harder, this will result in more calories being burnt.
    • Your appetite can be suppressed due to your fight or flight response being activated which will keep you from wanting to eat.
  • Rate of Recovery is increased
    • In combination with consuming carbohydrates, ingesting caffeine will increase the rate of glycogen replenishment. 
  • Aerobic performance is increased
    • It is recommended for runners to consume caffeine before their workout consistently to block the A1 receptors and allow for increased endurance during training.
    • It is recommended for athletes who rely on endurance but also require short bursts of power to only consume caffeine right before their training for maximum benefit.
  • Anaerobic performance is enhanced
    • It is not recommended to consume caffeine daily as your body can build up a tolerance and hinder rather than enhance your performance.
    • Having a dose of 100mg-600mg of caffeine can help you lift heavier whether it’s when you squat or bench.

    Side Effects of Consuming Caffeine

    The effects of consuming caffeine can make you feel refreshed and focussed, however in large doses it can result in sleep deprivation and feelings of anxiousness.

    Some side effects include:

    • Poor sleep quality
    • Gastrointestinal distress
    • Fatigue
    • Headaches
    • Muscle cramping
    • Dehydration
    • Anxiety

    These negative effects won’t affect everyone’s health as long as caffeine is consumed moderately and partnered with a healthy nutrition and fitness lifestyle. Some things you can do to enhance a healthy lifestyle include cardio and lifting weights whether at home, a park or at the gym. High doses (~600mg) of caffeine are also not recommended for people not used to caffeine and those prone to anxiety. Start off with small amounts, just enough for your body to feel the effects, but not too much that your body reacts negatively.

    Can you ever have ‘too much’ caffeine?

    Yes. As caffeine is essentially a drug, it is possible to get addicted and build up a tolerance. There is potential for your body to become physically and psychologically dependent on caffeine in order to function properly. 

    Some symptoms you may experience which indicate that you’d had too much caffeine include:

    • Dehydration
    • Frequent urination
    • Dizziness and headaches
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Trembling hands

    As a result, you may also experience withdrawal symptoms if you were to remove caffeine quickly from your everyday routine. These include:

    • Fatigue
    • Sweating
    • Muscle pain
    • Anxiety
    • Persistent headaches

    If you do find that you’re becoming dependent on caffeine, slowly reduce the amount you’re having each day rather than removing it completely from your body at once so that your nervous system has time to adapt to the change. 

    NOTE: be careful with the amount of caffeine you’re consuming, DON’T confuse milligrams with grams, especially when using caffeine supplements.

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