I used to have a love-hate relationship with caffeine but ever since I’ve started using it in a SMART way, its been more of a positive in my life than a negative. This is a drug that’s consumed far far far more than anything else out there. And for good reason – It’s got some fantastic benefits if used the right way but like with everything else that has a lot of positives, it does have its own drawback which I will get to later.
In today’s post we will answer three questions – How does caffeine work, how can it help us achieve our fitness goals, and how do we dose it correctly depending on our own genetics?
How does caffeine work?
To understand how caffeine works in the body – we must understand what adenosine is. Adenosine is a molecule that is responsible for causing drowsiness and signaling to our bodies that its time to sleep. This occurs when the adenosine molecules attach themselves to its own adenosine receptors. Whenever someone consumes caffeine, the caffeine molecule binds to the adenosine receptors – hijacking the adenosine molecules rightful place in the brain causing feelings of alertness, improved focus and faster reflexes.
How can caffeine help us achieve our fitness goals?
The reason we are so interested in caffeine is because the effects are not just cognitive, but physical as well– when consumed before a workout, you will see an increase in endurance and strength enabling you to train harder and longer.
Studies show an average of 12 percent increase in performance with more benefits noticed during endurance exercise than shorter high-intensity exercise. Caffeine also mitigates the effects of perceived pain by about 6 percent giving you that extra push to complete that last rep.
These physical effects occur when individuals consume between 3-6mg caffeine/kg bodyweight or between 1.5mg – 3mg/ lb bodyweight. So for a 150lb person – between 225mg to 450mg caffeine.
Caffeine also suppress appetite which can be a huge advantage when trying to diet for fat loss. It will help to keep your calories on the lower side. Of course just caffeine is not enough to curb your cravings – you should also eat the right foods and perhaps add in some HIIT to your routine if you really want to drop fat.
How do we dose it correctly depending on our own genetics?
Caffeine CAN be very helpful in achieving fitness related goals and getting into the shape we all want if dosed correctly for the individual taking it. Caffeine has a half-life between 4 to 6 hours but can last a lot longer or shorter depending on the individual’s ability to metabolize caffeine. This means that a 200-mg caffeine tablet consumed at 12 PM noon will wither down to about 100mg at 6 PM and 50 mg caffeine at 12 AM. That being said: People generally fall into three camps when we talk about caffeine sensitivity/caffeine tolerance.
Hyposensitive – These people process caffeine very quickly and usually need higher doses to get the same effects as someone who has normal sensitivity to caffeine. You might be Hyposensitive if you can consume large quantities of caffeine close to bedtime and not notice any adverse effects on your sleep quality and quantity.
Normal Sensitivity – These people process caffeine at the normal rate. As long as these people consume caffeine early on in the day, between 200mg – 400mg or 2-4 cups of coffee is generally okay and will not lead to sleep disruptions at night.
Hyper-sensitivity – These people process caffeine very slowly and are extremely sensitive to its effects. A cup of coffee containing between 80-120mg in the morning might be the upper limit of what these people can handle. Even that might lead to sleep disruptions. A good alternative is switching to teas which contain half the amount of caffeine.
Unsure about what levels of caffeine are safe for you? It's something that you must master through trial and error. If you’ve never had it before, its normal to feel a bit anxious and jittery – try 50mg at most – see how you feel and adjust accordingly. Or you can head over to your nearest fitness instructor and ask his input!