Does caffeine help athletic performance? If it does, then is caffeine use safe? Here are some points to consider about caffeine before workout.
To be fair, the performance benefits of caffeine supplementation are difficult to prove. But many athletes use it in the hopes it will improve their performance.
A study of runners in a large United States marathon found that over 15% of the runners supplemented their fluids with caffeine. Among the inquiries about supplements from college athletes to the NCAA Resource Exchange Center, caffeine was second only to creatine.
Among the theoretical benefits of caffeine are increased mental awareness, increased metabolic rate, and reduced perception of fatigue. As such, athletes would have a longer time to exhaustion than normal.
There has also been debate over its fuel-burning properties. Caffeine mobilizes fat stores and encourages working muscles to use fat as a fuel, delaying the depletion of muscle glycogen in the body and allowing for a prolongation of exercise.
With those potential benefits, though, come side effects that might outweigh the benefits. Since caffeine is a stimulant of the nervous system, it can increase mental awareness and speed reaction times. But it can also cause anxiety and make athletes feel jittery.
Caffeine is also thought to have potential side effects that might ultimately impair athletic performance, including muscle tightness, muscle cramping, and dehydration. Other side effects include sleep deprivation, headaches, nausea, cramping, and gastrointestinal distress.
While many studies show that caffeine might have some moderate benefits for athletic performance, these benefits likely only pertain to highly-trained athletes rather than adult weekend warriors or youth athletes. Combined with some of the side effects of caffeine use, you should think through the pros and cons of caffeine before using it before you train or compete.