Caffeine and common sense: Are you drugging your workouts?

Most people know that coffee contains caffeine, but did you know that caffeine is also hidden in food products and supplements?


These days, you find caffeine in tea, soda, sports & energy drinks, weight loss pills, and most chocolate or coffee flavored food products, like ice cream. Even decaffeinated coffee contains caffeine.


The first thing to remember is that caffeine is a drug that stimulates the central nervous system and makes you feel more alert. And like any drug, taking too much of it can kill you. In its pure form, just 10 grams of caffeine is enough to induce seizure and death.


Contrary to what you might think, the general consensus is not “Just Say No” to this drug, but rather to moderate it mindfully. While you can have some caffeine, use your common sense. The effects on your body can vary widely depending on how much you have, how much you weigh, and your general health. 


Too much caffeine can result in anxiety, nervousness, headaches, rapid heart rate, and difficulty sleeping. So if you start to notice any ill-effects, it might be time to dial it down. Caffeine is also a diuretic and can be dehydrating without drinking enough water.



How does caffeine affect my workout?


According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), a study found that a small amount of caffeine ingested before a period of exercise lasting 5 minutes increased athletic performance. It also triggered muscle glycogen sparing earlier in the process.


Is anyone still wondering why so many weight-loss supplements contain caffeine? It makes you feel good, perform better, and burn fat faster. What’s not to like?


“First, remember the ACSM results came from a laboratory study of high-performing athletes doing just 5 minutes of monitored exercise in a lab setting,” Tom says, “not from a group of average people pumping iron at your local gym after grande americanos.”


Based on his 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, Tom recommends skipping the caffeinated products, at least before you workout.


"An 8oz serving of regular coffee contains close to 115mg of caffeine, so the 3-9 mg athletes used in the ACSM study is equivalent to less than a tenth of a single cup of coffee. Let’s face it, most of us drink too much caffeine." 


Tom also says he’s noticed that too much caffeine can skew self-assessment during workouts.


“The boost you get from caffeine can make you feel so wonderful that you push yourself too hard, which can result in increased soreness the next day, or even - heaven forbid - a workout-related injury.”


“Plus, most people don’t drink enough fluids to begin with, so do your body a favor, and be sure you can meet your daily hydration goals before you have those caffeinated beverages.”


It's sound advice, though a somewhat inconvenient truth for this girl, whose morning cup o' joe is the only way she makes it to the gym in the first place. No doubt about it, the caffeine habit is a hard one to kick.


How does your caffeine fix affect your workout? Leave Tom a comment!


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