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Caffeine—we all drink it, so what?
Did you know that when used appropriately, caffeine can enhance athletic performance in athletes? However, when abused, have you considered how it affects recovery?
Caffeine as a Culture
Are you the type that can’t start your day without a cup of coffee, or two, or three…? Or do you not like coffee and get your caffeine from tea or soda instead? How about those energy drinks that are so popular these days?
Whatever your preference might be, caffeine is clearly a huge part of our culture, especially in the military. You can always find someone walking around with a Bang or Reign in their hand.
Caffeine is the most widely used (and abused) psychoactive stimulant in the world.
What is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that works on the central nervous system. Simply put, it blocks the chemicals in your body which slow you down. (If you want to read about this more in depth, read this article: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-caffeine. )
Although the effects of small amounts include decreasing fatigue and increasing mental alertness, the effects of larger doses include anxiety, tremors, and rapid heartbeat just to name a few. Not to mention excessive amounts, combined with other stimulants can lead to sudden arrhythmic death.
How Much Caffeine is Safe?
According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 400 mg of caffeine appears to be safe for most healthy adults. Lots of assumptions there. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678)
How much caffeine is in your typical caffeinated beverage?
Starbucks 16 oz (grande)- 330mg
Dunkin Donuts coffee 14 oz (medium) – 178mg
Black tea brewed for 3 mins, 8 oz – 30-80 mg
Coca-Cola, 12 oz- 35mg
Mountain Dew, 12 oz- 54 mg
Bang energy drink, 16 oz- 300 mg
Monster energy drink, 16 oz- 160 mg
Oh and don’t forget caffeine isn’t just in drinks…
Hershey’s dark chocolate bar, 1.5 oz- 20mg
Excedrin migraine, 2 tablets, 130mg
Zantrex-3 weight loss supplement, 2 capsules- 300 mg
This can all add up.
One good way to keep your caffeine levels in check is to first be aware of how much caffeine is actually in the drinks/foods that you typically consume. Next, start marking a hash on the back of your hand every time you have a caffeinated beverage. This will make it easier to notice when you are consuming too much.
Timing is Important
The amount of caffeine is not the only important factor, but WHEN you are consuming it.
You should avoid consuming caffeine 6-8 hours before bed. Sooo many people have issues sleeping and just deal with it, but don’t ever consider that it could be from something they drank 6 hours prior. If you typically go to bed at 11pm, make it a point not to have anything with caffeine in it after 3pm, and see if you start to sleep better.
Better Sleep–> Better Recovery –> Better Performance
One of my favorite research studies is one that I read about in the book “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker, PhD (awesome book on sleep, by the way). The study was evaluating the effects of different drugs on the ability of a spider to build a web. The spiders were either given LSD, marijuana, speed, or caffeine. The resulting pictures of the webs were super interesting. The spiders given caffeine were the LEAST capable of constructing anything even close to a normal web.
(Little side note: I also have a book blog for fun. If you want to read more about “Why We Sleep” or want to purchase it, click here. )
Caffeine to Improve Athletic Performance
Ok, so yes, there is some evidence out there that caffeine can enhance athletic performance. However, there is a certain way of going about it.
–Who: Endurance athletes may last longer and perform better with the use of caffeine.
–When: Caffeine should be consumed 30-60 mins prior to performance.
–How: 3-5mg of caffeine per kg of bodyweight. ex. An 80 kg person (176 lbs) would need 240mg of caffeine.
*Remember not to take both caffeine and other stimulants at the same time
**Only taking caffeine when needed will prevent building a tolerance up and/or getting addicted to it.
AND just FYSA (for your situational awareness)… although there are studies that show that caffeine improves performance, there are also studies that show it doesn’t. So take this with a grain of salt….