Caffeine Helps Strength Athletes Too
Jan 30, 2009
Caffeine has a long history of use by endurance athletes because of evidence showing it can promote enhanced use of fat as a fuel and thereby spare muscle glycogen and enhance performance.
Caffeine also acts centrally by decreasing rating of perceived exertion during prolonged exercise. But is there any reason strength athletes would benefit from caffeine? According to findings published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research the answer is yes. On two separate occasions, they had subjects perform a resistance exercise session consisting of multiple sets of 12 repetition maximum leg extension and arm curls. One hour before exercise, they ingested either Caffeine or Placebo at a dose of 6 mg/kg. This is equivalent to about 490 mg for a 180 pound athlete or 2-3 cups of brewed coffee. Compared to Placebo, the total repetitions completed during the first set and all sets combined were significantly greater after Caffeine ingestion. Another recent study also found benefits of caffeine on strength performance and also investigated if caffeine dose was important. One hour before exercise, subjects consumed 0, 5, 9, or 13 mg caffeine per kilogram body weight. Compared to the 0 mg trial, all caffeine doses increased isometric peak force, average force and fatigue index. Interestingly, there was a progressive increase in performance as caffeine dose increased. These results are similar to some of the early creatine research which showed that 5-7 days of creatine loading improved the total number of repetitions of bench press and squat. With caffeine, the ergogenic benefits are evident after acute dosing before exercise. Exactly how caffeine improves strength performance is not clear, but it could be a stimulatory effect or act directly on the muscle to enhance contractile functioning.
Hudson GM, Green JM, Bishop PA, Richardson MT. Effects of caffeine and aspirin on light resistance training performance, perceived exertion, and pain perception. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Nov;22(6):1950-7.
Archna S, Jaspal SS. The effect of different dosages of caffeine on isometric strength and isometric endurance. Journal of Exercise Physiology(online). 11:6, Dec 2008.