In intriguing article, “It’s Time to Make a Coffee Run,” written for the New York Times points out that for many years researchers thought that caffeine helped muscles use fat as a fuel. They thought that this was sparing the glycogen stored in muscles and increasing endurance, enabling people to workout harder and longer. But evidence that caffeine was also improving exercise in short bursts when glycogen metabolism had not yet kicked in, (recall the newsletter on metabolism) pointed out there must be something else at play. Further research uncovered that caffeine helps performance by encouraging calcium release, a key mineral stored in muscles. Calcium also effects processes in the brain, including the sensation of exhaustion. Perhaps the most insightful piece of information from the article was that as little as 4 oz of coffee can improve exercise performance!
A stop at webmd.com, brought up another intriguing correlation between caffeine and exercise. In a study conducted by the University of Illinois, subjects who ingested caffeine pills prior to exercise reported less muscle soreness during exercise on a stationary bike. This makes me wonder….for people who fear the delayed muscles soreness of exercise, could a little cup of java mitigate their discomfort?
Last but not least, it should be duly noted that caffeine on exercise performance does not always have a positive effect. Though the majority of athletic and recreational exercise points to improved endurance and strength with less muscle soreness, there are those who report ill-effects of caffeine. For some, the “caffeine high” is experienced as jittery, shaky run. In other cases, they feel it impossible to “recover” during their resting times because of increased heart rate of caffeine.
Apparently many athletes have moral and psychological issues with “using” caffeine as a performance enhancer even though it has been approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency and has several studies to support its benefits. But not everyone feels this way. As one coach quoted in the NYTimes article stated, “why aren’t they (the athletes) all going to Starbucks?”
So there you have it, as usual support for both sides. So what do you think? Does caffeine improve your exercise performance?