How You Can Use Caffeine To Improve Workout Performance

Cans of energy drinks and bottle of caffeine to improve workout performance.

Caffeine is one of the most widely used stimulants in the world. You can use caffeine to improve workout performance, but it can also be detrimental. It occurs naturally in the leaves, seeds, and fruits of over 60 plants worldwide. You can find caffeine in many foods and beverages, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate. You can also find it in several over-the-counter medicines, such as some weight-loss products, pain medicines, and cold remedies.

Some people consider caffeine to be a nutritional ergogenic aid, but it doesn’t provide you with any nutritional value. You can get some great health benefits from caffeine, but it also has some consequences.

How Caffeine Affects Your Body

Caffeine acts as a stimulant on your central nervous system, causing your heart rate and blood pressure to increase. It can affect your mood, stamina, cerebral vascular system, and gastric and colonic activity. Caffeine also acts as a diuretic, which causes your kidneys to excrete more urine.

After you have caffeine, you may feel more awake and energetic for a while. Your body completely absorbs caffeine within 30 to 45 minutes, so the effects substantially diminish after about 3 hours. Your body eventually excretes the caffeine, so it doesn’t accumulate.

4 Reasons Why Caffeine Makes Workouts Better

4 Reasons Why Caffeine Makes Workouts Better | Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.

Sources of Caffeine in Your Diet

If you’re like the average American, you probably consume around 280 mg of caffeine per day. About 20% to 30% of the population consumes more than 600 mg of caffeine daily. Ten percent ingest more than 1,000 mg per day. 

Where does all that caffeine come from? Well, so many products contain caffeine that you might not be aware of how much you’re consuming. You have to read the labels to see if caffeine is listed as an ingredient.

The most common sources of caffeine in your diet are coffee, tea leaves, cocoa beans, cola, and energy drinks. Caffeine can also be produced synthetically and added to your food, beverages, supplements, and medications.

Here’s the caffeine content in some of the most common sources of caffeine in your diet:

Sources of CaffeineCaffeine Content
Plain brewed, 8 oz135 mg
Instant, 8 oz95 mg
Espresso, 1 oz30-50 mg
Plain decaffeinated, 8 oz5 mg
Green tea, 8 oz25-40 mg
Black tea, 8 oz40-70 mg
Soft Drinks 
Coca-Cola Classic, 12 oz34.5 mg
Diet Coke, 12 oz46.5 mg
Dr. Pepper, 12 oz42 mg
Mountain Dew, 12 oz55.5 mg
Pepsi-Cola, 12 oz37.5 mg
Sunkist Orange, 12 oz42 mg
Energy Drink 
Full Throttle, 16 oz144 mg
Red Bull, 8.5 oz80 mg
SoBe No Fear, 16 oz182 mg
Chocolates or Candies 
Candy, milk chocolate, 1 bar (1.5 oz)9 mg
Candy, sweet chocolate, 1 bar (1.45 oz)27 mg
Cocoa mix, powder, 3 tsp5 mg
Puddings, chocolate, ready-to-eat, 4 oz9 mg
Medicine: Over the Counter 
Excedrin65 mg
Bayer Select Maximum Strength65.4 mg
Midol Menstrual Maximum Strength60 mg
NoDoz 100 mg32.4 mg
Pain Reliever Tablets65 mg
Vivarin200 mg

Side Effects Of Using Caffeine To Improve Workout Performance

The most common side effects you might experience after consuming caffeine include:

  • anxiety
  • jitters
  • inability to focus
  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • gastrointestinal unrest
  • nervousness

If you consume lots of caffeine, you’ll also have a higher risk of experiencing an irregular heartbeat. Recent research has found that caffeine may cause miscarriage or slow growth in a developing fetus in pregnant women. It has also been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures in postmenopausal women.

Use Caffeine To Improve Workout Performance

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conducted a study on well-trained recreational athletes. They found that if you consume caffeine before you exercise, you may experience an increase in your running endurance and cycling performance. To enjoy those benefits, you need to ingest 3-9 mg of caffeine per kilogram (kg) of your body weight, or approximately 2 to 6 cups of coffee, one hour before your workout.

It’s still unclear what exact mechanisms cause these improvements in your performance. However, the most likely reason why caffeine can improve your endurance is that it spares muscle glycogen. Glycogen is the stored energy in your muscle tissues, which are broken down when you exercise. Studies suggest that caffeine can increase the availability of fat for your skeletal muscles to use when you exercise, thus sparing glycogen.

Caffeine can also help you perform a brief, intense (near maximal) exercise for about 5 minutes. Studies can’t fully explain these ergogenic effects of caffeine. However, caffeine probably has a direct effect on your muscle contractions during anaerobic exercise. 

Maintain a Healthy Diet

There’s a lot of research that still needs to be conducted concerning the effects of caffeine on your performance. If you have any questions about how caffeine affects your health, be sure to consult your medical practitioner.

Above all, you should maintain a healthy diet and keep up your workout routine. Good nutritional habits and sound training principles can provide you with clear benefits, and, unlike caffeine, they won’t cause unwanted side effects. For more articles on nutrition look here and for more articles on supplements go here.

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