Not Your Mamma’s Coffee: The Benefits of Caffeine & Training

February 15, 2019


It is likely the most commonly used drug in the world, and we either see or consume it on a daily basis. In this episode of Sheer Strength Labs, Josh explores the world of caffeine. He discusses the benefits and effects, how it helps in training sessions, increases your power output, and is a beneficial pre-workout supplement. During this episode, Josh also looks at the protocols of caffeine, as well as the dark side.

Caffeine and It’s Effect 

Caffeine is a stimulant that comes from plants in South America and is found in thousands of food and drink products across the world. The most well known source of caffeine is found in the coffee bean and unlike most drugs, caffeine is not regulated in most parts of the world. It is known to be an anti-sleep compound of which a habitual use leads to a build up in tolerance.

Caffeine can make you feel a sense of euphoria and alertness, which are key reasons it is used in pre-workout formulas. Josh says 95% of pre-workout supplements on the market contain some form of caffeine.

How Caffeine Helps in Training Sessions

Caffeine has great benefits for endurance athletes. As long as there is glycogen available, muscles will work utilizing fatty acids over long durations of exercise. When we take caffeine, it helps mobilize these fatty acids that our muscles are running on in our aerobic pathway. Caffeine encourages our muscles to use fat as fuel, so it increases adrenalin levels that can reduce pain signals and help you push further for longer. Caffeine is seen as a fantastic supplement for runners and endurance athletes.

Caffeine Helps Increase Power Output

Caffeine is not a banned substance in any sporting federation, and there are nine studies showing that caffeine has a positive effect on power output in weightlifters and cyclists. The amount of caffeine used in these studies was around 5mg per kilogram of bodyweight.

Your muscle growth is directly linked to the total volume of weight lifted in your session, provided that the weight is giving adequate stimulus. The biggest factor on the muscular response of growth is the total weight lifted by the end of the session. If we can increase our output and lift more weight in our session, then, provided we are having enough protein, we are going to get a bigger hypertrophic response and gain more muscle.

Caffeine has been shown to have great impact on anaerobic running performance, which is short fast sprinting. If you participate in CrossFit and are working in the anaerobic training environment, then caffeine is a great tool to implement into your pre-training protocol to etch out your performance.

The Cons of Using Caffeine

When taking caffeine you need to pay attention to an increase in your heart rate. If you can’t handle caffeine and end up taking a bigger dose than you should, then you will find that your heart rate increases. Josh advises that if symptoms don’t reduce within ten minutes, give your physician a call to ensure everything is okay. Caffeine has also been shown to increase blood pressure so beware and always start with a low dose.

Caffeine Protocols

Take caffeine first thing in the morning to help you wake up. It is also possible to take caffeine with other supplements, such as thiamine, to increase the effects. When the two supplements are combined, it will help your cognitive performance, so not only can you use caffeine in the gym environment to excel but you can also use it in the work environment.

You can also stack caffeine with xanthine oxidase inhibitor, milk thistle, curcumin, and quercetin. These help to increase circulation levels of caffeine, which mean you will get a lasting effect or get more of an effect on less of a dose.

Josh suggests starting with 100mg of caffeine per day and personally likes a double espresso to start his morning, then limits himself to taking 300mg of caffeine post workout.

30 minutes before your workout, try taking100mg and see how you train that day. If you don’t feel any affects, increase it by 50mg until you do feel the effects. Remember, the aim of taking caffeine is to improve your workout, so you have the choice of using a supplement, coffee, or caffeine tablets.

The Dark Side of Caffeine

In the nineties there was a fat loss formula made up of ephedrine, aspirin, and caffeine. This stack heightens the effects of caffeine and helps the fatty acid mobilization. The ephedrine is a beta-2 agonist, which increases your thermic level slightly so you have a heightened metabolism. The aspirin helps thin your blood to aid circulation. This stack increases fat lost, but is illegal in the United States and banned from being used within supplements. Josh says this is far too dangerous and recommends you don’t go near it. The side effects of taking this combination is that you can get the shakes, headaches, cold sweats, heart palpitations, feel on edge, anxious, and have mood swings. If you’d like to know more, check out Tim Ferris’s book The Four Hour Body.

Thank you for listening! If you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a 5 star rating and review in iTunes!  

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