Another benefit of caffeine is its characteristic of increasing lipolysis (fat breakdown) via increased free-fatty acid mobilization, sparing glycogen as a fuel source. In this case, fat becomes a much-needed fuel source during hard training, allowing for more calories to be burned. Caffeine taken post-workout can increase glucose uptake from the blood into your muscles. This means your muscles can recover faster and glycogen recovery is enhanced. An increase of glycogen into your muscles enhances muscle size due to its hydrophilic (water-pulling) effect.
Caffeine also stimulates your metabolism via a process called thermogenesis in which your body becomes more efficient at burning more calories for energy. The overall effect of increased thermogenesis and lipolysis is weight loss. The continued consumption of caffeine may assist in long-term weight loss.
More is not better when it comes to caffeine intake. Overindulging in caffeine can cause insomnia, gastrointestinal distress, nervousness, confusion, inability to focus, over-excitability, muscle twitching, high blood pressure, etc. If you experience any of these symptoms, level off the amount consumed. In this case, less can actually be more--smaller amounts may be more effective in promoting increased endurance, strength and muscle mass. You need to consume an amount relative to your bodyweight (i.e., 3-6 mg per kg bodyweight) at the right times (i.e., pre-workout, post-workout). A recommended amount for most people is 200mg (about 2 cups of coffee). The full effect of caffeine can last 2-3 hours and diminishes within 12 hours. Caffeine in liquid form (e.g., coffee, energy drinks) will be absorbed within the body faster than in pill form.
There are commonly-held beliefs regarding caffeine that are myths:
MYTH: CAFFEINE CAN SOBER YOU UP
Caffeine does not sober you up but rather makes you become an alert drunk.
MYTH: CAFFEINE MAKES YOU DEHYDRATED
The reality is that caffeine does have a mild dehydrating effect within the kidneys but the increased urination is mostly caused by increased fluid intake.
MYTH: CAFFEINE IS ADDICTIVE
Caffeine is not addictive in and of itself--rather it's the morning ritual of drinking coffee that makes it seem addictive. Nevertheless, caffeine is a stimulant drug which, when taken in large amounts and then stopped, can cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and irritability.
BOTTOM LINE: The benefits of caffeine, when in taken in moderation, include the following:
- stimulates lipolysis (frees fatty acids to be burned for energy)
- increases metabolic rate (body more efficient at burning fuel for energy)
- assists in bodyweight loss and maintenance
- improves mood and alertness which improves exercise performance
- increases testosterone levels during exercise
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."