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Where can we find caffeine everywhere?What effects does caffeine have on the body?5 benefits of caffeine intake before training5 disadvantages of caffeine intake before trainingRecommended dosage of caffeine

What to take from it?

Caffeine is probably the most widely used stimulant worldwide. In the form of freshly prepared coffee, tea or through dietary supplements, we use it in the morning, during the day, and many of us like it even before training. Not only can it give us a real kick in front of it, but it also has a number of other benefits, such as supporting sports performance and helping with weight loss. However, we must remember that caffeine is a good servant but a bad master. There are also some risks associated with it that can negatively affect our performance or health. It is therefore important to monitor your caffeine intake and know how to use it correctly.

Where can we find caffeine everywhere?

The most well-known natural source of caffeine is undoubtedly coffee beans, from which we prepare espresso, filtered coffee and other coffee drinks. Tea leaves, especially green tea, matcha or yerba mate, also contain this stimulating substance. Caffeine in its natural form can also be found in cocoa beans. When you need a change, feel free to try swapping coffee for a mug of cocoa or a small cube of quality dark chocolate. However, expect that you will receive less caffeine this way than from coffee. 
It is also worth mentioning guarana or kola nut, which can be found in the original recipe for the world-famous Coca-Cola. It still contains caffeine, but in the wide assortment of lemonades we can find many others that have caffeine in their composition. It is also added to nutritional supplements, which are typically used before or during sports activity. These include, for example, pre-workout supplements or energy drinks, shots or gels.

What effects does caffeine have on the body?

1. Reduction of fatigue and supply of energy

Many of us cannot even imagine going to training without drinking a fresh espresso. We take it as a ritual that kicks us off and sets us on the right note. What is actually behind the stimulating effect of caffeine? Its main mechanism of action is its unique ability to bind to adenosine receptors. By doing so, it blocks them and can thus limit the action of adenosine, whose role is to calm us down, induce a feeling of relaxation, sleepiness and fatigue. Instead, caffeine makes us suddenly more alert and we can feel a rush of energy, which is exactly what we need at that moment. That is why caffeine has its place of honor in the composition of pre-workout supplements.

2. Good mood and satisfaction

Drinking coffee is also associated with a feeling of satisfaction and good mood. This effect is probably related to the potential ability of caffeine to increase the amount of receptors of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin or GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). It is these substances that affect our mental state and can induce almost euphoric feelings in us. Over time, we can even work our way into feeling the urge or need to have coffee at certain times of the day. If we don’t get it, we may experience headaches, irritability and other unwanted symptoms. Our body has already formed a habit and craves the pleasant effects of caffeine. The more caffeine we consume, the more intense the symptoms may be after it is stopped.

3. Greater vigilance

After consuming caffeine, the levels of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol can also rise in our body. We recognize it by increased alertness, faster heart activity and better blood circulation to the muscles. It is also manifested by a momentary increase in blood pressure and heart rate. All these effects can have their positives and negatives in terms of sports performance.

5 benefits of caffeine intake before training

Caffeine has a permanent place in the pre-workout routine of many athletes. The proof is, for example, research results, according to which 3 out of 4 elite athletes indulge in caffeine before or during performance. It probably won’t be much less even in the case of recreational people who go for sports, for example, only after work. In short, caffeine in various forms is popular with endurance athletes, strength athletes, soccer players and other team athletes. 
An interesting fact is that this substance was on the list of prohibited substances of international sports organizations between 1984 and 2004. If the athlete’s sample (urine) was taken with a caffeine concentration higher than 12 μg/ml, it was considered doping. This corresponds to an intake of approximately 10 mg of caffeine per 1 kg of body weight, which is well above the commonly recommended values. Currently, athletes are no longer tested for caffeine, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) continues to monitor caffeine intake and advises athletes to stay below 12 μg/ml in case the topic comes up again in the future.

1. Encouragement before training

Almost everyone needs a little or a big boost before exercise. It often happens that we feel somehow without energy before a planned sports activity. We then automatically reach for caffeine in the form of coffee, an energy drink or a pre-workout drink and wait for the well-known stimulating effect. It can appear within a few minutes and is most pronounced between 30 and 120 minutes after consuming caffeine. Then we can feel more alert, more motivated, more concentrated and more prepared for the next sports load.

2. Improving sports performance

From the point of view of supporting sports performance, caffeine is one of the most researched substances worldwide. It is most often associated with improving endurance performance, but many studies have also confirmed its positive effect on strength, coordination and other sports skills. In addition, it can improve brain functions such as alertness, attention and reaction time. It is therefore a universal support that can help a sprinter run a faster time, a basketball player shoot the basket more accurately or a soccer player perceive the game more attentively and be one step ahead of the opponent.
The positive effect of caffeine on sports performance is mainly due to the aforementioned effect on reducing fatigue or increasing the level of adrenaline, which can often bring out literally unearthly performances from us.Better blood circulation to the muscles, higher resistance to exertion and pain can also contribute.A certain role can be played by supporting the breakdown of fat into energy, which can be better used during sports.
As part of the research, an improvement of only one percent was observed, for example. Athletes’ endurance improved by an average of 2-4% and strength by 2-7% after caffeine intake. It may seem like a small number, but in the case of athletes, success and failure are often decided by milliseconds that can bring them closer to, for example, winning a medal. 

3. Support fat burning and weight loss

Caffeine can kick not only our mind or muscles. In his abilities, there is even an acceleration of metabolism. Thanks to this, its intake before training can lead to a greater amount of burned calories, which will be especially appreciated when losing weight. Thanks to its effects, it also belongs to thermogenic fat burners.
First of all, it can encourage us to practice more focused, more honestly, with more passion and at a higher intensity, which can be reflected in a greater amount of energy burned.
According to conducted research, caffeine affects catecholamine hormones (adrenaline and noradrenaline), which can speed up metabolism.
Caffeine can increase the consumption of oxygen (oxygen uptake) during exercise, which can also increase the consumption of calories during performance.
This substance also has the ability to increase the breakdown of fat (lipolysis) into energy, which is then used for movement. For this reason, the burning effect of caffeine works best after sports.
According to experts, the effect of this substance on increasing the concentration of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) also plays a certain role. The latter can activate the enzyme lipase, which breaks down fats and helps break them down into usable energy.

4. Reduction of fatigue and muscle pain

Runners and other endurance athletes, who usually spend the most time in sports, struggle most often with fatigue during training. They easily run out of stored energy in the form of glycogen, which is manifested by a decrease in performance. The intake of simple carbohydrates during exercise in the form of gels or ionic drinks helps to prevent them from this. However, caffeine can also contribute. This is because during physical activity, it helps to break down stored fats into a usable source of energy, thanks to which glycogen can be saved. Caffeine during sports activity also helps to reduce fatigue and increase the subjective level of energy due to the reduction of adenosine activity and the effect on the nervous system (CNS).
In addition, it has been shown to reduce muscle soreness during training. Apparently, the ability to suppress the effects of adenosine, which affects pain signaling, is behind this. Thanks to this, we can, for example, handle a slightly larger load or maintain the intensity of the performance for as long as possible. 

5. Better handling of demanding or long training sessions

When we put together all the effects of caffeine, we get a key that can help us unlock the next level of athletic potential. Right from the first kick, through the reduction of fatigue and pain, we can work our way up to master slightly more demanding or longer training sessions. It’s also possible that exercise might seem a little easier to us compared to when we don’t drink caffeine before training.

5 disadvantages of caffeine intake before training

After reading all the positive effects, it may seem that caffeine before training will bring us only positives. Unfortunately, even this substance has its risks, and it is not always suitable before exercise. What can happen if we exceed the maximum daily recommended dose, have a higher sensitivity to caffeine or take it at the wrong time?

1. Risk of sleep disturbance

Caffeine generally has a quick onset of action and we can feel its effect after just a few minutes. However, it remains in our organism for quite a long time. It can easily take up to 9.5 hours to break it down completely. It takes 4-6 hours for most people. So, even 6 hours after drinking coffee, we may have trouble relaxing the body, calming the mind and getting ready for sleep. Even if we do manage to fall asleep, we may wake up at night and probably not get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. The influence of caffeine can also reduce the time of deep sleep, which is essential for quality rest. For this reason, it is generally recommended to avoid caffeine 6 hours before going to bed. 

What effect does DNA have on the breakdown of caffeine?

However, this general recommendation may not apply to everyone. Maybe you just remembered someone who drinks coffee after dinner and sleeps like a baby. On the other hand, there are many people who can indulge in coffee or strong green tea only in the morning, because otherwise they have trouble falling asleep. The explanation for this phenomenon can be found in our DNA. The enzyme responsible for caffeine metabolism is encoded by the CYP1A2 gene. Depending on which variant of this gene we have, we can be classified as either slow or fast metabolizers of caffeine.

2. Digestive problems

If we have a more sensitive stomach or overdo it with caffeine, it can happen that we spend most of our training on the toilet instead of lifting weights. This substance increases the production of gastric acid (hydrochloric acid), which in larger quantities can cause stomach irritation or reflux (return of gastric juices into the esophagus).
In addition, it supports the activity of the intestines, which is not suitable during exercise. If you don’t drink much coffee and want to start supplementing with caffeine, it’s better to start with a smaller dose and watch the body’s reaction. 

3. Increased nervousness, irritability and other side effects

Caffeine triggers a whole host of reactions in our body that make us suddenly feel more motivated and energized. But everything does a lot of harm. When we exceed the limit of safe caffeine intake or are more sensitive to it, we can observe a feeling of nervousness, anxiety, irritability, stress or heart palpitations.
In most cases, it’s nothing serious and these symptoms should disappear as the caffeine is eliminated from the body, but we certainly don’t want to feel this way during training or at any time during the day. In order to prevent this, we must follow the recommended dosage and individual tolerance to caffeine.

4. Increasing tolerance

If we are regular consumers of caffeine in any form, it may happen over time that the same dose does not kick us as much as before. Our body can develop a tolerance to caffeine. To achieve the same benefits, we will therefore have to increase our daily intake, which may not be possible without side effects. In that case, we can try caffeine cycling.

How does caffeine cycle?

We will remove all sources of caffeine from your diet and supplementation plan for 2-8 weeks. It is important to prepare for the fact that withdrawal symptoms may appear during the first days. It is more common especially in people who used higher doses of caffeine. Such symptoms typically include irritability and sometimes headaches. However, if we overcome the first days and endure the caffeine withdrawal cycle, we can enjoy the greater effect of caffeine again. A smaller dose will simply be enough to achieve the targeted effect. 

5. Risk of excessive intake or overdose

Consuming more caffeine than is healthy throughout the day is easier than it might seem. It is enough to have two strong espressos, drink a liter of cola without sugar, and one energy drink before training, and suddenly we are over the upper limit. When we really overdo it with caffeine intake during the day, we can even experience indigestion, heart palpitations and sleep problems, which result in another need to boost ourselves with caffeine, which leads us into a vicious circle. For this reason, we should guard our daily intake of this substance.

EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has set the upper limit of caffeine intake at 400 mg per day for a 70 kg person, which corresponds to an intake of 5.7 mg/kg per day.
One dose should contain a maximum of 200 mg of caffeine (3 mg/kg). 
According to the ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition), an amount of 3-6 mg/kg of caffeine per day is suitable for supporting sports performance.
Very high caffeine intake, for example 9 mg/kg, is associated with frequent occurrence of side effects and does not seem to have a positive effect on performance. In this case, more is not better.
It is recommended to take caffeine 30-60 minutes before training.

Which sources of caffeine are the best?

Before training, we can enjoy, for example, fresh espresso or filtered coffee. Ideally without milk and sugar, thanks to which the caffeine is absorbed faster and we also avoid extra calories.
Another option is BCAA drinks, which, in addition to caffeine and amino acids, often contain vitamins and minerals.
Caffeine tablets, which contain an effective amount of 200 mg of caffeine in one dose, are also suitable.You can also use pre-workout drinks containing caffeine, energy shots, capsules or extracts from green tea or guarana.
The advantage of food supplements with caffeine is that we can find out how much of the active substance we have taken based on the composition. Unfortunately, this cannot be determined in the case of coffee or tea, in which a large number of factors influence the caffeine content.

What to take from it?

By adding caffeine to pre-workout supplementation, we can get a lot of benefits. This substance encourages us, prepares us for physical activity, so we can perform better during training. We will be able to train longer and more easily overcome more intense exercise. However, caffeine also has its second, darker side. We can easily exceed its recommended daily intake, which can cause digestive problems or sleep problems in more sensitive individuals. It is therefore important to follow this recommendation and at the same time listen to the reactions of your own body. That’s the only way to get the best out of caffeine.

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