Caffeine is the most commonly used “drug” worldwide: it is consumed by millions every day, in the form of coffee, tea or beverages. It is used for its stimulant effect: against fatigue, or for an energy kick—and it works. What most coffee drinkers don’t know is that caffeine mobilizes fats so the body can use them up as energy. This is great if you train hard and want to get rid of some body fat. However, if you sit at your desk all day, gorging on doughnuts, you won’t experience much of it. Caffeine is a standard ingredient of many stimulant weight loss supplements.
In its natural state, caffeine can be found in coffee (most of all), tea, chocolate, cola products, guarana (plant), the kola nut (another plant) and many “fat burner” supplements.
Impact on improving performance
Why athletes use caffeine
Studies have shown that caffeine boosts performance and increases maximum strength output as well as the amount of available energy. Due to its stimulating effect, it enhances focus and energy levels. This can be especially important before training or competition.
Since caffeine suppresses appetite and helps the body use fats as energy sources, it can be found in the huge majority of weight loss products. Of course it can be overdone, just as anything else. But if you use your brain, too, besides caffeine, it is safe and is not more addictive than say, cleaning.
How it promotes fat loss:
- It enables the body to use fats as energy sources, thus promoting fat loss.
How it can boost energy levels and stamina:
- It gives an instant energy boost and enhances mental focus and clear thinking
- It can help overcome fatigue by stimulating the central nervous system
Symptoms of caffeine deficiency
No known deficiency symptoms.
Based on studies, caffeine may be useful in the treatment of the following symptoms:
Although most people are aware of the dangers of caffeine, this popular substance has quite a bad PR in the media, and many tend to say it is “not safe” without having considered its positive effects. But we have good news for you, fellow coffee fans: our favorite morning drink has only fallen victim to “character assassination”. Several studies have shown that caffeine is a safe stimulant with thermogenic, weight loss and performance boosting properties.
How it works
Caffeine is a thermogenic substance, since it helps speed up metabolism. This means, you will burn more calories in the same time. Plus, it is obviously a stimulant, which explains why you feel invigorated (both mentally and physically) after a short pause at the local café or a diet coke in the afternoon—even if only for a while. Contrary to the popular (but short-sighted) belief, you can actually enjoy these effects without the frequently mentioned negative side effects.
Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands. As a result, they produce more epinephrine, norepinephrine (adrenaline) and dopamine (which functions as a neurotransmitter), which leads to enhanced fat loss, higher energy levels, better stamina and mental focus.
An energy kick for workout
By consuming caffeine before workout, you help your body utilize fatty acids as energy sources. This does not only mean your muscle cells get more energy and will be able to work harder, but you will actually “pay” for this excess energy by mobilizing your fat deposits. In other words, caffeine can make your fat burning exercise much more efficient by supplying your muscles extra energy so you can go on longer and harder.
Some researchers believe that caffeine enables more calcium to enter the muscles. This promotes healthy muscle contractions and improves the health of the muscle tissues in general. Nevertheless, further research is required to explain this phenomenon in its fullness.
More good news
Above its potential fat burning and energy boosting properties, caffeine increases the libido as well. As a result, individuals who consume caffeine are more satisfied in general, and are less exposed to the risk of suicide. As David Letterman put it: “If it wasn't for the coffee, I'd have no identifiable personality whatsoever.” How many of us could tell the same?
An interesting experiment has shown that women (not men) who drank coffee with caffeine achieved better results in 12 different tests. This might lead us to the conclusion that caffeine has a positive impact on both the speed and the focus of mental activity. But sadly, this doesn’t mean a double espresso will make you smarter.
Researchers of the Harvard University have published a study recently, saying that 4 or more cups of coffee a day reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. Nevertheless, further research is required before we could recommend caffeine for diabetes prevention.
What is the truth?
Of course, appropriate dosage is very important, as in the case of any stimulant. If you drink two bowls of coffee a day, that’s nonsense! So, don’t forget the good old phrase: you can have too much of a good thing. But in moderate amounts (up to 3 cups a day), caffeine doesn’t cause any unfavorable symptoms.
“Stimulating” facts: caffeine is not “evil”. In fact, it can be helpful at fat loss, boosting energy levels and helping athletes achieve better results.
Indications for use
As an instant energy kick, stimulant or performance booster, studies recommend 100 to 200 mg of caffeine, up to 3 times a day.
Caffeine is often ingested in liquid form like coffee, tea or certain fizzy beverages. But it is also available in pill or capsule forms like Vivarin™ or No-Doz™. Caffeine is present in most thermogenic (fat burner) or stimulant formulas either in itself or as guarana, its plant-based equivalent.
Since everybody reacts to stimulants differently, you should experiment yourself to determine the most effective amount. You might start with 100 mg, which is equivalent to a cup of strong coffee. Later you can determine whether you need more to achieve the desired stimulating effect.
Since caffeine is a diuretic (it dries out the body), sufficient hydration is essential. Some scientists recommend that you should count 2 cups of water for each cup of coffee above your regular 8-10 glasses of water a day.
Caffeine can be consumed any time of the day. It is especially popular in the morning, as a cup of coffee, which gives a good kick start for the day.
If you wish to boost your energy levels and mental focus with caffeine before workout, you should take it 30 to 60 minutes before workout.
If you wish to boost your performance for a sports event, then, based on scientific recommendation, it is better to refrain from taking caffeine for a few days. Then, about 4 mg per kg of bodyweight is recommended about an hour before the event. This means, for example, a man of 80-85 kg should take 320 to 360 mg of caffeine (about 3 cups of coffee).
Synergists of caffeine
Combined with ephedra in a proportion of 10:1 (200 mg of caffeine and 20 mg of ephedrine), it synergically enhances its stimulating and appetite suppressant effects. Plus, Aspirin (150-300 mg) is often added to this stack to make it more powerful. Scientists recommend that these substances should be used in combination for 3 or 4 weeks, followed by a one- or two-week pause.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and you don’t tolerate stimulants well or have heart problems, caffeine is not recommended for you.
Symptoms of caffeine overdose include irritability, shaking or insomnia. Plus, it flushes nutrients from the body. But these are short-term side effects only.
No known toxicity.
Contra-indication and restrictions
Caffeine is on the IOC’s list of prohibited substances. Believe it or not, caffeine and products that contain caffeine are considered stimulants, so, the IOC doesn’t allow competitive athletes to use such products. The maximum allowed amount of caffeine secreted to the urine varies for different sports. An amount that exceeds that level counts as doping. And this can be even a small bottle of coke in some sports!
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