In gyms all across the world you would have seen countless pre-workout supplements promoting claims that their products help increase strength and maximal force output, but how true are these claims? Research is still emerging on the use of caffeine on resistance training and the evidence is not conclusive, although several studies have found a positive effect. Overall, the research suggests that coffee provides the most positive effects on power-based activities that use large muscle groups and muscular endurance.
How does caffeine work?
While you’re awake, the neurons in your brain fire away and produce a compound called adenosine as a by-product. Adenosine is constantly monitored by your nervous system through receptors. Typically, when adenosine levels drop and hit a certain low level in your spinal cord and brain, your body will signal to you to start relaxing to prepare for sleep. caffeine affects the A1 receptor. When 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine is ingested it works its way toward your body’s adenosine receptors and mimics the effects, therefore tricking your body thinking that it’s not yet time for sleep by acting like adenosine.
Pre-workout caffeine supplements
There are many claims that pre-workout supplements include caffeine and a blend of other artificial sweeteners, creatine and amino acids, but do you really need to be taking these supplements to get the best out of your workouts and is their effect on your health a positive or a negative one? It’s important if you’re going to take a pre-workout that you read the label and make sure that they do not have a high amount of artificial sweeteners, or excess caffeine as excessive intake can lead to negative side effects such as impaired sleep, increased blood pressure, bloating and feeling jittery. However, if you do not have these negative side effects and find the right product without a high number of additives then pre-workout caffeine supplements can help improve your exercise capacity.
Should you take caffeine to help with your strength training programme?
You don’t need to take caffeine to benefit from exercise. However, alongside a wholesome workout regimen and diet they can help improve your strength training results. Caffeine dosing is individualized meaning some people tolerate it better than others so it is important to start with a small dose of caffeine and gradually increase it to see what you can tolerate. Overall, caffeine supplements should be avoided by beginners and once you have been training and dieting consistently for around 6 months, if you follow these easy steps to reduce the side effects than caffeine supplementation may benefit your strength training programme.
Ways to reduce side effects
- Remember that it’s best to avoid caffeine for at least 6 hours before bed to help prevent sleeplessness
- Mixing your pre-workout supplement with 8–12 ounces (240–350 ml) of water can minimize side effects.
- Decreasing your dosage or avoiding supplements with particular ingredients.
- The best way to reduce side effects is to start with a small dose of a caffeinated pre-workout supplement, slowly increasing your dosage to see what you can tolerate.