A morning cup of coffee could help improve athletic endurance
The caffeine in a morning cup of coffee could help improve athletic endurance, according to a new University of Georgia review study.Authored by Simon Higgins, a third-year doctoral student in kinesiology in the College of Education, the study was published in this month's issue of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.
To research the issue, Higgins reviewed more than 600 scholarly articles and screened them for those that focused only on caffeinated-coffee conditions, measured the caffeine dose and measured an endurance performance. Of these, nine randomized control trials specifically used coffee to improve endurance.
"Previous research has focused on caffeine itself as an aid to improve endurance," Higgins said. "Coffee is a popular source of caffeine, so this paper looked at the research surrounding its ergogenic benefits."
Looking at the nine trials, Higgins found that between 3 and 7 milligrams per kilogram of body weight of caffeine from coffee increased endurance performance by an average of 24 percent. The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee can vary from 75 mg to more than 150, depending on the variety and how it's roasted and brewed.
"This is helpful for athletes because coffee is a naturally occurring compound," Higgins said. "There's the potential that getting your caffeine by drinking coffee has similar endurance benefits as taking caffeine pills."
In the nine trials, participants either cycled or ran after drinking coffee. They then exercised vigorously and the results were measured. In a majority of cases, endurance was noticeably improved after the use of coffee.
When researching the effects of caffeine from coffee, Higgins found two important discoveries: that caffeine from coffee has ergogenic benefits -- that it enhances physical performance -- and that more research is needed on the use of caffeine from coffee versus pure caffeine use.
"While there is a lack of high-quality research on coffee as a source of caffeine, there is an abundance of research on pure caffeine," he said. "It's surprising how little we know about caffeine from coffee when its endurance effects could be just as beneficial as pure caffeine."
Higgins said that coffee shouldn't be dismissed as less beneficial for endurance. He found that coffee appears to be just as helpful as taking caffeine in the form of powder or tablets.
"There's a perception that coffee won't give you the same benefits as pure caffeine," he said. "New research could mean that athletes could have a cup of coffee versus taking a pill."
Higgins says that more research is needed before giving official recommendations to athletes, especially since the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee can vary depending on how it's prepared.
"There is a caveat to athletes using coffee: Be careful because you don't know how much caffeine is in some coffee, especially when it's prepared by someone else," he said. "Athletes should run their caffeine use through their sports dietician as the NCAA lists it as a banned substance."
Coffee consumed one hour prior to exercise can improve endurance exercise performance
There is consistent evidence supporting the ergogenic effects of caffeine for endurance based exercise. However, whether caffeine ingested through coffee has the same effects is still subject to debate. The primary aim of the study, The metabolic and performance effects of caffeine compared to coffee during endurance exercise, published in PLoS One Apr. 3, 2013, was to investigate the performance enhancing effects of caffeine and coffee using a time trial performance test, while also investigating the metabolic effects of caffeine and coffee. In a single-blind, crossover, randomised counter-balanced study design, eight trained male cyclists/triathletes completed 30 min of steady-state (SS) cycling at approximately 55% VO2max followed by a 45 min energy based target time trial (TT).
One hour prior to exercise each athlete consumed drinks consisting of caffeine (5 mg CAF/kg BW), instant coffee (5 mg CAF/kg BW), instant decaffeinated coffee or placebo. The set workloads produced similar relative exercise intensities during the SS for all drinks, with no observed difference in carbohydrate or fat oxidation. Performance times during the TT were significantly faster (~5.0%) for both caffeine and coffee when compared to placebo and decaf were significantly faster performance times were similar for both caffeine and coffee. Average power for caffeine and coffee during the TT was significantly greater when compared to placebo and decaf.
The present study illustrates that both caffeine (5 mg/kg/BW) and coffee (5 mg/kg/BW) consumed 1 h prior to exercise can improve endurance exercise performance.
Study finds that caffeine cuts post-workout pain by nearly 50 percent
Although it’s too soon to recommend dropping by Starbucks before hitting the gym, a study suggests that caffeine can help reduce the post-workout soreness that discourages some people from exercising.
In a study published in the February 2007 issue of The Journal of Pain, a team of University of Georgia researchers finds that moderate doses of caffeine, roughly equivalent to two cups of coffee, cut post-workout muscle pain by up to 48 percent in a small sample of volunteers.
Lead author Victor Maridakis, a researcher in the department of kinesiology at the UGA College of Education, said the findings may be particularly relevant to people to exercise, since they tend to experience the most soreness.
“If you can use caffeine to reduce the pain, it may make it easier to transition from that first week into a much longer exercise program,” he said.
Maridakis and his colleagues studied nine female college students who were not regular caffeine users and did not engage in regular resistance training. One and two days after an exercise session that caused moderate muscle soreness, the volunteers took either caffeine or a placebo and performed two different quadriceps (thigh) exercises, one designed to produce a maximal force, the other designed to generate a sub-maximal force. Those that consumed caffeine one-hour before the maximum force test had a 48 percent reduction in pain compared to the placebo group, while those that took caffeine before the sub-maximal test reported a 26 percent reduction in pain.
Caffeine has long been known to increase alertness and endurance, and a 2003 study led by UGA professor Patrick O’Connor found that caffeine reduces thigh pain during moderate-intensity cycling. O’Connor, who along with professors Kevin McCully and the late Gary Dudley co-authored the current study, explained that caffeine likely works by blocking the body’s receptors for adenosine, a chemical released in response to inflammation.
Despite the positive findings in the study, the researchers say there are some caveats. First, the results may not be applicable to regular caffeine users, since they may be less sensitive to caffeine’s effect. The researchers chose to study women to get a definitive answer in at least one sex, but men may respond differently to caffeine. And the small sample size of nine volunteers means that the study will have to be replicated with a larger study.
O’Connor said that despite these limitations, caffeine appears to be more effective in relieving post-workout muscle pain than several commonly used drugs. Previous studies have found that the pain reliever naproxen (the active ingredient in Aleve) produced a 30 percent reduction in soreness. Aspirin produced a 25 percent reduction, and ibuprofen has produced inconsistent results.
“A lot of times what people use for muscle pain is aspirin or ibuprofen, but caffeine seems to work better than those drugs, at least among women whose daily caffeine consumption is low,” O’Connor said.
Still, the researchers recommend that people use caution when using caffeine before a workout. For some people, too much caffeine can produce side effects such as jitteriness, heart palpitations and sleep disturbances.
“It can reduce pain,” Maridakis said, “but you have to apply some common sense and not go overboard.”
Caffeine reduces pain during exercise
Stopping to smell the coffee – and enjoy a cup of it – before your morning workout might do more than just get your juices flowing. It might keep you going for reasons you haven't even considered.
As a former competitive cyclist, University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Robert Motl routinely met his teammates at a coffee shop to fuel up on caffeine prior to hitting the pavement on long-distance training rides.
"The notion was that caffeine was helping us train harder … to push ourselves a little harder," he said.
The cyclists didn't know why it helped, they just knew it was effective.
"I think intuitively a lot of people are taking caffeine before a workout and they don't realize the actual benefit they're experiencing. That is, they're experiencing less pain during the workout," Motl said.
He said it's becoming increasingly common for athletes – before competing – to consume a variety of substances that include caffeine, motivated by "the notion that it will help you metabolize fat more readily."
"That research isn't actually very compelling," Motl said. "What's going on in my mind is … people are doing it for that reason, but they actually take that substance that has caffeine and they can push themselves harder. It doesn't hurt as much."
The U. of I. professor has been investigating the relationship between caffeine and physical activity since taking a slight detour during his doctoral-student days, when his work initially was focused on exploring possible links between caffeine intake, spinal reflexes and physical activity.
Seven years later, with several studies considering the relationship between physical activity and caffeine behind him, Motl has a much better understanding of why that cuppa Joe he used to consume before distance training and competing enhanced his cycling ability.
Early in his research, he became aware that "caffeine works on the adenosine neuromodulatory system in the brain and spinal cord, and this system is heavily involved in nociception and pain processing." Since Motl knew caffeine blocks adenosine from working, he speculated that it could reduce pain.
A number of studies by the U. of I. professor support that conclusion, including investigations considering such variables as exercise intensity, dose of caffeine, anxiety sensitivity and gender.
Motl's latest published study on the effects of caffeine on pain during exercise appears in the April edition of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.
"This study looks at the effects of caffeine on muscle pain during high-intensity exercise as a function of habitual caffeine use," he said. "No one has examined that before.
"What we saw is something we didn't expect: caffeine-naïve individuals and habitual users have the same amount of reduction in pain during exercise after caffeine (consumption)."
The study's 25 participants were fit, college-aged males divided into two distinct groups: subjects whose everyday caffeine consumption was extremely low to non-existent, and those with an average caffeine intake of about 400 milligrams a day, the equivalent of three to four cups of coffee.
After completing an initial exercise test in the lab on an ergometer, or stationary cycle, for determination of maximal oxygen consumption or aerobic power, subjects returned for two monitored high-intensity, 30-minute exercise sessions.
An hour prior to each session, cyclists – who had been instructed not to consume caffeine during the prior 24-hour period – were given a pill. On one occasion, it contained a dose of caffeine measuring 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (equivalent to two to three cups of coffee); the other time, they received a placebo.
During both exercise periods, subjects' perceptions of quadriceps muscle pain was recorded at regular intervals, along with data on oxygen consumption, heart rate and work rate.
"What's interesting," Motl said, "is that when we found that caffeine tolerance doesn't matter, we were perplexed at first. Then we looked at reviews of the literature relative to caffeine and tolerance effects across a variety of other stimuli. Sometimes you see them, sometimes you don't. That is, sometimes regular caffeine use is associated with a smaller response, whereas, other times, it's not."
No one's been able to figure out the reason for the inconsistency, Motl said.
"Clearly, if you regularly consume caffeine, you have to have more to have that bigger, mental-energy effect. But the tolerance effect is not ubiquitous across all stimuli. Even brain metabolism doesn't show this tolerance-type effect. That is, with individuals who are habitual users versus non-habitual users, if you give them caffeine and do brain imaging, the activation is identical. It's really interesting why some processes show tolerance and others don't."
Regarding the outcome of the current research, he said, "it may just be that pain during exercise doesn't show tolerance effects to caffeine."
Motl said one of the next logical steps for his research team would be to conduct studies with rodents in order to better understand the biological mechanism for caffeine in reducing pain.
"If we can get at the biological mechanism, we can begin to understand why there may or may not be this kind of tolerance."
Motl said another research direction might be to determine caffeine's effect on sport performance.
"We've shown that caffeine reduces pain reliably, consistently during cycling, across different intensities, across different people, different characteristics. But does that reduction in pain translate into an improvement in sport performance?"
Meanwhile, the current research could prove encouraging for a range of people, including the average person who wants to become more physically active to realize the health benefits.
"One of the things that may be a practical application, is if you go to the gym and you exercise and it hurts, you may be prone to stop doing that because pain is an aversive stimulus that tells you to withdraw. So if we could give people a little caffeine and reduce the amount of pain they're experiencing, maybe that would help them stick with that exercise.
"Maybe then they'll push a little harder as well … maybe get even better adaptations to the exercise."
Moderate coffee consumption does not lead to dehydration
New research published in the PLOS ONE, has found no evidence for a link between moderate coffee consumption and dehydration. The research, conducted by researchers at the University of Birmingham School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, UK, found that drinking moderate amounts of coffee does not result in dehydration and contributes to daily fluid requirements in regular coffee drinkers just as other fluids do.
Due to early research showing the acute effects of caffeine as a mild diuretic, there appears to be a common assumption that caffeinated beverages, such as coffee also have this effect. However, the effect of coffee consumption on fluid balance cannot be directly compared with that of pure caffeine. Interestingly, prior to publication of this new study only two studies had specifically investigated the effects of caffeine in the form of coffee on hydration status(3,4) with mixed and inconclusive results.
This is the first study to directly assess the effects of a moderate consumption of coffee compared to equal volumes of water. Sophie Killer a Doctoral researcher and lead author of the study commented: "Despite a lack of scientific evidence, it is a common belief that coffee consumption can lead to dehydration and should be avoided, or reduced, in order to maintain a healthy fluid balance. Our research aimed to establish if regular coffee consumption, under normal living conditions, is detrimental to the drinker's hydration status."
In a sample of regular coffee drinkers, Killer and colleagues measured the effects of moderate consumption of black coffee compared to the consumption of equal volumes of water on fluid balance and hydration status. Fifty male participants were tested in two phases, where they were required to drink four mugs (200ml) of either black coffee or water per day for three days. In the second phase, those who had initially drunk coffee switched to water and vice versa. The two phases were separated by a ten day 'wash out' period. Females were excluded from the trial to control against possible fluctuations in fluid balance resulting from menstrual cycles.
To assess hydration status, the researchers used a variety of well-established hydration measures including body mass and total body water, as well as blood and urine analyses. The researchers found no significant differences in total body water or any of the blood measures of hydration status between those who drank coffee and those who drank water. Furthermore, no differences in 24-hour urine volume or urine concentration were observed between the two groups.
"We found that consumption of a moderate intake of coffee, four cups per day, in regular coffee drinking males, caused no significant differences across a wide range of hydration indicators compared to the consumption of equal amounts of water," said Sophie Killer. "We conclude that advice provided in the public health domain, regarding coffee and dehydration, should be updated to reflect these findings."