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Is there anything that caffeine can't do? For starters, it's largely responsible for beginning the global work day. People wonder what might happen if Greece or other European countries default on their debt, that would be nothing in comparison to what might happen if all of the caffeine disappeared in the world. On an individual level, think for a minute the power caffeine provides to get us going in the morning and then multiply that by a few billion people. Additionally, caffeine is one of the few supplements that will make the short list of almost every exercise and sport nutritionist's short lists of supplements that athletes should consider.
The potential positive effects go on and on and for a quick refresher, studies show it to boost mental acuity and performance, lessen fatigue and increase energy (Goldstein, Jacobs et al. 2010). In addition, a number of studies have reported caffeine to increase various endurance performance parameters such as time to exhaustion and other studies have shown caffeine to help increase fat burning, spare glycogen and decrease how hard a workout may feel (Goldstein, Jacobs et al. 2010).
Recently, authors have suggested that adding caffeine may help to increase the rates at which your muscle can rebuild glycogen (Pedersen, Lessard et al. 2008) and most recently, authors from the United Kingdom have found that adding caffeine to a carbohydrate drink after an exhaustive running workout can increase your ability to perform intense bouts of exercise as soon as four hours later (Taylor, Higham et al. 2011). In this well-controlled study, six men completed three different identical testing conditions, whereby in one condition they consumed only water, one condition they consumed carbohydrate and in the final condition they consumed carbohydrate with added caffeine during the four hours after initial exercise bout. Blood glucose levels were better maintained when carbohydrate was consumed during the post-exercise recovery period and when multiple bouts of high intensity exercise bouts were completed, the athletes were able to significantly improve their running capacity when caffeine was added to the carbohydrate drinks. Impressively, running capacity was increased by 50% when caffeine was added in comparison to the carbohydrate only condition and by an even greater 152% when compared to only ingesting water. These results are exciting because the magnitude of changes was remarkable and the intervention the authors imposed was easy to implement and practical. A number of athletic situations lend themselves to where the findings from this study could be very useful. For example, soccer teams will often play tournaments which may require multiple games in one day, competitive swimmers may compete in the morning and then have to complete again later in the day. Furthermore, many triathletes or fitness enthusiasts will oftentimes complete two workouts in one day where a prolonged cardio session may occur in the morning and the afternoon of some other form of exercise and many recreational or competitive bodybuilders will train one body part in the morning before targeting another body part later in the day. In conclusion, the findings from this recent study provide a practical and powerful recommendation for athletes to significantly improve their performance by adding caffeine to their carbohydrate drink in the early hours of recovery.
Goldstein, E. R., P. L. Jacobs, et al. (2010). "Caffeine enhances upper body strength in resistance-trained women." J Int Soc Sports Nutr 7(1): 18.
Pedersen, D. J., S. J. Lessard, et al. (2008). "High rates of muscle glycogen resynthesis after exhaustive exercise when carbohydrate is coingested with caffeine." J Appl Physiol 105(1): 7-13.
Taylor, C., D. Higham, et al. (2011). "The effect of adding caffeine to postexercise carbohydrate feeding on subsequent high-intensity interval-running capacity compared with carbohydrate alone." International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 21(5): 410-416.