There’s no pre-workout better than coffee, right? Instead of constantly measuring dosages in your protein shakes, you might’ve resorted to just chugging down a cup of coffee or an energy drink for the caffeine component and then going to the weight room alert and ready for the lifting session.
If you’re taking caffeine as a pre-workout, or if you’re just consuming it for the performance benefits, caffeine is a great supplement to give you more energy and keep you alert and ready to get work done in the weight room.
This is not to mention that it’s probably the most studied supplement in sport nutrition–at least as much as creatine, or even more. And a lot of the studies concur that caffeine does wonders for endurance.
On average, you might get a 3-5% improvement from caffeine when doing endurance exercises. So if you’re doing a cardio day, caffeine will help you go on a little bit longer than normal, which in turn will help you burn more calories. However, we’re interested in caffeine’s effects in helping you lift heavier weights and get a harder and more muscular body.
Caffeine and Strength
Study results are all over the place when it comes to the effect caffeine has on your strength. Some studies state that it offers as little as a 1% increase, while others claim it gives as high as a 20% increase in strength or strength endurance.
In anaerobic performance (sprinting or lifting weights), caffeine can increase your performance anywhere from 6-10%. If you haven’t taken caffeine and you pop a caffeine pill, you might get around a 20% increase in your training volume.
Caffeine has different effects on your exercises as well. It will probably be more effective in increasing your motivation and getting you more reps while you’re under a squat or a deadlift, where it’ll numb the pain a little, than when you’re doing upper body movements such as bench press.
Caffeine and Anxiety
The problem with caffeine comes with its dosages. There’s a psychological model called the zone of optimal functioning that essentially goes like this: the more excited you are, the higher your performance increases, but after a certain point, performance starts to go down.
Caffeine is an example of that concept in practice; when you get too excited, you start to get anxiety, which causes your performance to go down. You can probably remember that one time when you were just the right amount of hyped for exercising and you broke your previous record.
However, you can probably also remember when you were so amped up that your hands started shaking, causing you to make mistakes that affected your technique or stance positioning, causing you to have a sub-par day.
When your excitement or arousal gets too high, it can definitely mess up your lift, and what regulates that excitement threshold is the dose of caffeine you take.
Pre-Workout Caffeine Dosage
Studies show that when doing resistance training, taking 200-400mg of caffeine puts you in that optimal zone of getting amped up to do your best in the weight room without compromising on performance.
If 200-400mg doesn’t cut it for you, then you should probably cutback on caffeine, because your body may be dulled to it. You generally want your body to be sensitive enough that 200-400mg optimizes your response.
That’s because if you take more than 400mg of caffeine, you’re at a higher risk of getting anxiety and seeing a drop in your performance, not to mention that you can impair your long-term adaptations through overtraining and overreaching in your exercises.
When we take a look at the relationship between overtraining and the testosterone/cortisol ratio, we found that cortisol levels start to spike to a very high level once you reach 600-800mg of caffeine.
When and How Should You Take Caffeine?
Generally, caffeine’s effects peak about 45-90mins after consumption. So, if you have an hour-long workout, plan to take your caffeine around 30-40mins before your workout.
When it comes to how you take caffeine, we get a lot of people asking whether they should take it in pill form or as a coffee drink. We’d like to assure you that performance doesn’t really matter either way, it’s all up to your preference. Take something that tastes good to you–it’ll also help boost your motivation!
We hope this article helped you understand how caffeine could be used effectively as a pre-workout! We’ll see you again in the next article.