What is it?
- Central nervous system stimulant
- Primarily functions as an antagonist of adenosine
How does it work?
- Blocks the binding of adenosine and promotes the release of excitatory neurotransmitters
- Promotes fatty acid oxidation
- Stimulates the release of intramuscular calcium to enhance muscle recruitment and forceful contractions
How does this benefit exercise?
- Improves several components of fitness including aerobic endurance, muscular strength, muscle endurance, power, jumping performance, and speed
- Lowers pain perception and perceived exertion during exercise – making those hard training sessions seem easier
Caffeine is a natural stimulant commonly found in tea, coffee and cacao plants.
Historians say caffeine was first consumed by Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2737BC when he made the first pot of tea containing leaves from a bush and boiled drinking water.
Ethiopian legend claims a goat shepherd first discovered coffee after noticing that his goats became more active and could not sleep after eating berries from a tree.
Fast forward to today, and around 80 percent of the world’s population consumes at least one caffeinated product each day.
Caffeine has also become a go-to pre-workout supplement for athletes to improve exercise performance, focus and fat burning.
Evidence for effectiveness
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Pre-workout benefits of caffeine
Caffeine provides numerous benefits including boosting your energy, sharpening focus and improving mental alertness.
These elements can all have a significant impact on overall performance during workouts, providing gains in several key areas.
To maximise caffeine’s effectiveness as an energy-boosting supplement, it is advisable to consume it one to two hours before the start of your workout.
This ensures that you will have peak levels of caffeine in your bloodstream when you start your cardiovascular or strength exercises.
Caffeine can also provide endurance gains, helping you power through those extra miles on the treadmill or push through those additional repetitions.
It also has thermogenic properties – meaning it speeds up your metabolism, allowing you to burn maximum calories during your workout.
Pre-workout supplements containing caffeine are an excellent way to get an energy shot and other helpful nutrients such as amino acids and protein.
The latest science
Various studies have shown that caffeine can provide numerous performance-enhancing benefits if consumed in the correct dose and at the optimum time.
Caffeine may also increase tolerance to fatigue and improve muscle contractions. Endurance has been proven to be enhanced by caffeine if consumed one hour before a workout.
Research has also shown that doses as low as 3 mg per kg of body weight may be sufficient to reap the benefits of exercise and sport.
Various scientific studies claim caffeine offers performance benefits across the workout spectrum, so it is suitable to be used by top-level and everyday athletes alike.
With a perceived reduction of exertion during exercise of up to 5.6%, caffeine has also been proven to make workouts feel much more manageable.
Other health benefits of caffeine
Caffeine provides several other significant health benefits which do not necessarily have to be associated with workouts.
It can block the brain-signalling molecule adenosine, which causes a relative increase in other signalling molecules such as norepinephrine and dopamine.
This interaction provides positive benefits to brain function and your mood, potentially lowering the risk of depression and other mental health issues.
Studies have also shown that consuming caffeine may reduce the risk of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Contrary to popular opinion, several studies have shown that caffeine does not increase the risk of heart disease and can lower the risk of stroke.
While caffeine can slightly raise blood pressure in some people, this generally only happens if they consume more than the recommended daily amount.
Caffeine has also been found by researchers to lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by almost a third.
Increased metabolism and fat burning are other health benefits derived from consuming recommended daily dosages of caffeine.
What to look for on the label
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) consider a daily intake of 400 mg of caffeine to be safe.
In terms of beverages, this generally equates to four cups of brewed coffee, ten cans of cola or two energy drinks.
However, it should be noted that if you are taking pre-workout supplements, always factor in the dosage on the label when calculating your daily intake.
For example, RYSE’s Project Blackout Pre-Workout contains 300 mg of Caffeine Anhydrous and 120 mg of Delayed-Release Caffeine Microspheres.
On that basis, you would be well-advised not to consume any other products containing caffeine within the same 24-hour cycle as using Project Blackout.
Synergistic effect with other pre-workout ingredients
Caffeine unquestionably provides numerous performance-enhancing benefits if consumed at the optimum time and in the correct dosage.
Endurance performance, high-intensity exercise and power sports are amongst the areas where caffeine consumption can have the most significant impact.
A daily intake of 400 mg of caffeine is considered safe and should be consumed one to two hours before a workout for the best results.
Caffeine works synergistically with other pre-workout ingredients, although there are some factors to consider when used alongside creatine.
Some older studies suggested caffeine cancels out creatine’s benefits, but modern research has sought to disprove this theory.
Participants taking caffeine and creatine reported greater digestive discomfort, but there were no significant differences in sprinting and power performances.
It should be noted that the study size was small, and further research is needed before definitive claims can be made on the combined effects of caffeine and creatine.
However, along with many other pre-workout ingredients, caffeine has repeatedly been proven to deliver significant benefits in sports and athletic performance.