Exercise and Caffeine

If you’re feeling a little sleepy late in the afternoon, instead of taking an over-the-counter stimulant, you can have a caffeinated drink and get a little pick-me-up. If you’re planning on working out, you may wonder about caffeine and exercise. Is it a good idea to mix the two?

Caffeine is a stimulant, pure and simple; it is quickly absorbed into the body and begins to lose effectiveness after one to two hours. Stimulants increase your heart rate and blood pressure, and release glucose into your blood stream. This may explain the extra energy.

Scientists also explain how caffeine increases the level of dopamine in your system which activates the reward center of your brain. In short, caffeine makes you feel good. The stimulant effect may make you feel more awake and more energetic for a short time, but will it affect how well you perform if you participate in sports or exercise?

There has been research done in recent years trying to determine what effect caffeine has on athletes. One study, completed by the American College of Sports Medicine, showed that drinking two to six cups of coffee an hour before exercise did increase the athlete’s endurance for running or bicycling. Other research shows that those performing short-term intense exercise, lasting around five minutes, also improved.

Some studies have shown enough of an improvement in athletic performance that limitations were placed on how much caffeine an Olympic athlete could ingest prior to competing. Still other reports claim that drinking caffeine in sufficient amounts prior to exercise can actually reduce the amount of pain you feel during exercise.

You may think getting a large cup of coffee will give you the performance-enhancing effects you want. However, one study completed in Canada proved that to get the most benefit from caffeine, a cup of coffee wouldn’t do it. Out of the men who completed the study, the way they achieved the best results was by taking caffeine capsules rather than drinking even large amounts of coffee.

Caffeine and its effects aren’t all good, however. Some people who consume caffeine on a regular basis report experiencing headaches, irritability, and restlessness. They also find they have become dependent upon caffeine to help them get through the day. Some even become addicted to it.

Another aspect about caffeine is the diuretic effect it has on the body. If you’re exercising and consuming caffeine, your body is going to lose a lot of fluids which can lead to becoming dehydrated. It’s simply not wise to exercise and lose large amounts of fluid, especially in hot environments.

The American Medical Association has determined that caffeine, in moderation, is not going to cause serious health issues. You can have a cup or two of coffee a day, enjoy the beneficial aspects of it, and not have to worry too much. However, if you’re going to consume large amounts of caffeine before you exercise, make sure you get plenty of other fluids during and after exercising to stop becoming dehydrated or worse.