There’s a reason people shy away from “decaf”. Many of us, myself included, are looking for that immediate mental boost that comes from taking caffeine, the most widely consumed, legal psychoactive agent in the world.
So how does caffeine work and what does it do? Within 45 minutes after ingestion, caffeine is completely absorbed. It binds to the receptor site for the neurotransmitter adenosine. By doing so, less adenosine binds to these sites thereby decreasing adenosine activity. This decrease in adenosine increases dopamine which stimulates the central nervous system. Through this process, caffeine improves wakefulness, decreases the number of mental errors made by night shift workers and those who operate on little sleep (military), and it can help improve our memory.
On an ergogenic front, caffeine can decrease ratings of perceived exertion and increase performance during endurance exercise, decrease delayed onset muscle soreness and subsequent loss of force associated with ergogenic exercise and it may augment glycogen resynthesis after glycogen-depleting exercise by increasing glucose uptake into muscles. And, according to a new study, caffeine enhances upper body strength in resistance-trained women.
In this newly published randomized, crossover study, 15 resistance-trained women were given caffeine (6 mg per kg body weight) or a placebo after which they performed a bench press test. Caffeine consumption resulted in significantly greater maximum bench press compared to no caffeine. What I found most interesting about this study is that it was done in resistance trained women – those who are already engaged in a training program are the ones seeking ergogenic aids, not the beginners. And yet, many studies are done on untrained individuals. Will caffeine result in amazing strength gains over time? We don’t know (though a good training and nutrition program are your best bet), however, it may boost your 1RM and make you feel a little less sore the next day.
Note to those with high blood pressure: systolic blood pressure was significantly higher post-exercise after caffeine consumption vs. placebo.