Top 10 Flat Belly Foods

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Your abs are made in the gym and revealed in the kitchen. A good training program develops the muscles in your midsection and the right diet helps banish bloating so you can see your abs. Here are the 10 flat belly foods you should add to your diet for a better looking (and better feeling) mid-section):Greek yogurt for belly fat

Greek Yogurt with Live and Active Cultures

Look for Greek yogurt with “live cultures (aka good bacteria)” or the “Live & Active Cultures” seal. The cultures are good bacteria that take up valuable real estate in your gut, helping your body digest food and decreasing gas and bloating. The amount of healthy, versus harmful, bacteria influences body weight and how much weight you can lose while following a lower calorie diet. Plus, a study published in the International Journal of Obesity found people who get their calcium from yogurt, as opposed to other foods, may lose more weight in their belly. Even more evidence to support yogurt consumption comes from a study showing dieters who ate five servings of dairy, such as Greek yogurt, daily lost more weight and abdominal fat than those who ate just three servings every day. A more recent review of the research found higher dairy intake was associated with lower risk of obesity in the midsection and yogurt seems to help keep weight in check.

2 Nuts

Though nuts are relatively high in calories for a small amount of food,  people don’t gain weight when they add nuts to their previously nut-free diet. A study in over 13,000 adults revealed nut eaters, those who ate at least ¼ ounce of nuts or peanuts (technically a legume) per day had smaller waists than adults who didn’t eat nuts. Additionally, tree nuts and peanuts contain a considerable amount of monounsaturated fat. Dieters who eat more foods containing monounsaturated fats may lose more belly fat than those who eat the same number of calories per day with less monounsaturated fat.

3 Asparagus

When examining dietary patterns, weight and waist circumference in close to eighty thousand people over a 10-year period, researchers found those who ate more vegetables every day had both a lower BMI and smaller waistline compared to adults who ate few vegetables. Asparagus contains prebiotic fiber, a type of fiber that is food for the good bacteria in your gut. Plus, asparagus is a natural mild diuretic making it the perfect food before hitting the beach or wearing a more formfitting outfit.

4 Avocados

Avocados contain a good amount of monounsaturated fat, not to mention nineteen vitamins and minerals. But, their monounsaturated fat is the ticket to a smaller waistline. In one study scientists gave obese adults with type 2 diabetes diets rich in saturated fat, monounsaturated fat or  carbohydrates. Those on the high carbohydrate diet ended up with fat redistributed to their stomachs while the monounsaturated fat rich diet prevented fat redistribution to the belly area. Plus, a look at dietary intake data from close to 18,000 adults found body weight, BMI and waist size were all significantly lower in avocado consumers versus those who didn’t include avocados in their diet.

5 Popcorn

Popcorn is a whole grain and when you pop it yourself on the stovetop (or in a brown paper bag in the microwave, just add good old fashioned popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag and fold the top) and top it with a little spray butter or spices for flavor, you’ll end up with a snack that takes a long time to eat and fills you up on relatively few calories. In addition, several studies show people who eat about three servings of whole grains per day weight less and have a smaller waistline compared to those who don’t.

6 Cold Pea Salad

Peas are naturally rich in resistant starch, a type of fiber that isn’t completely broken down or absorbed during digestion. Cooking and cooling peas to make a pea salad will significantly increase the amount of resistant starch they content. Rodent studies show resistant starch helps reduce stomach fat and increase hormones that tell the brain it’s time to stop eating.

7 Eggs

Choose eggs over cereal in the morning and you’ll tame hunger pangs for hours after breakfast, decreasing the likelihood of overeating later in the day. Make a meal containing at least 25 – 30 total grams of protein (the protein is in the white of the egg so this equates to 4 – 5 egg whites though you can choose any combination of whole eggs and egg whites as long as you consume at least 4 -5 of the whites) so you can cash in on the satiety-enhancing benefits of eggs. Added bonus: following a high protein diet for a short period of time can lead to significant reductions in belly fat.

8 Green Tea

The combination of caffeine and antioxidants in green tea may lead to small to moderate reductions in body fat and waist size. However, you need to consume quite a bit of it so get creative and cook with green tea by brewing it and using it to cook rice (it’s particularly good with jasmine rice), make stews, soups or stocks. You can also poach fruit green tea or use dried green tea leaves as part of a rub for meats, tofu or fish.

9 Barley

Barley is a cereal grain with a nutty taste and consistency that is a cross between pasta and rice. In a double-blinded trial (both the men and the researchers didn’t know which food they were getting), Japanese men were given rice or a mixture of rice with pearl barley. The group receiving the pearl barley and rice mixture lost a significant amount of visceral fat, the kind that covers your organs like a thick winter blanket and increases risk of heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes. Compared to the rice only group, the group who ate pearl barley decreased their waist size.

10 Blueberries

Blueberries are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which will not only help keep you full but also help keep your waistline in check. Plus they are a natural source of prebiotic fiber – the kind that the good bacteria in your gut munch on.

A flat belly is one of the most recognized signs of a fit body. Blast away abdominal fat with high-intensity cardio and build the underlying muscle by regularly switching up your training program. Also, incorporate a 30-minute abs classes to your routine. At least one study found you can spot reduce if you exercise the same muscle group for at least 30 minutes at a time. Keep in mind abs are made in the gym but revealed in the kitchen. Add the top 10 flat belly foods to your diet while cutting down on sugar alcohols (sorbitol, maltitol, and mannitol are the worst for causing gas and bloating), fizzy drinks and chewing gum (all of these can increase bloating at least temporarily) and you may fall in love with skinny jeans.

 

References
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O’Neil CE1, Keast DR, Nicklas TA, Fulgoni VL 3rd. Nut consumption is associated with decreased health risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome in U.S. adults: NHANES 1999-2004. J Am Coll Nutr 2011;30(6):502-10.

Kahn HS, Tatham LM, Rodriguez C, et al. Stable behaviors associated with adults’ 10-year change in the body mass index and likelihood of gain at waist. Am J Public Health 1997;87:747-54.

Ridaura VK, Faith JJ, Rey FE, Cheng J, Duncan AE et al. Gut microbiota from twins discordant for obesity modulate metabolism in mice. Science 2013;341:6150.

Turnbaugh PJ, Ley RE, Mahowald MA, Magrini V et al. An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature 2006;444:1027-1031.

Vidrine K, Ye J, Martin RJ, McCutcheon KL et al. Resistant starch from high amylose maize (HAM-RS2) and dietary butyrate reduce abdominal fat by a different apparent mechanism. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2014;22(2):344-8.

Bisanz JE, Reid G. Unraveling how probiotic yogurt works. Sci Transl Med 2011;3:106.

Dhurandhar NV, Geurts L, Atkinson RL et al. Harnessing the beneficial properties of adipogenic microbes for improving human health. Obesity Reviews 2013;19:721-735.

Delzenne NM, Neyrinck AM, Bäckhed F, Cani PD. Targeting gut microbiota in obesity: effects of prebiotics and probiotics. Nat Rev Endocrinol 2011;7(11):639-46.

Furet JP, Kong LC, Tap J et al. Differential adaptation of human gut microbiota to bariatric surgery-induced weight loss: links with metabolic and low-grade inflammation markers. Diabetes 2010;59:3049-3057.

Ley RE, Turnbaugh PJ, Klein S, Gordon JI. Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity. Nature 2006;444: 1022–1023.

Santacruz A, Marcos A, Warnberg J et al. Interplay Between Weight Loss and Gut Microbiota Composition in Overweight Adolescents. Obesity 2009;17:1906–1915.

Harland JI, Garton LE. Whole-grain intake as a marker of healthy body weight and adiposity. Public Health Nutr 2008;11(6):554-63.

Yadav BS, Sharma A, Yadav RB. Studies on effect of multiple heating/cooling cycles on the resistant starch formation in cereals, legumes and tubers. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2009;60 Suppl 4:258-72.

Keenan MJ, Zhou J, McCutcheon KL et al. Effects of resistant starch, a non-digestible fermentable fiber, on reducing body fat. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2006;14(9):1523-34.

Nagao T, Komine Y, Soga S et al. Ingestion of a tea rich in catechins leads to a reduction in body fat and malondialdehyde-modified LDL in men. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81(1):122-9.

Paniagua JA, Gallego de la Sacristana A, Romero I et al. Monounsaturated fat-rich diet prevents central body fat distribution and decreases postprandial adiponectin expression induced by a carbohydrate-rich diet in insulin-resistant subjects. Diabetes Care 2007;30(7):1717-23.

Fulgoni VL 3rd, Dreher M, Davenport AJ. Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008. Nutr J 2013;12:1.

Shimizu C, Kihara M, Aoe S et al. Effect of high beta-glucan barley on serum cholesterol concentrations and visceral fat area in Japanese men–a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 2008;63(1):21-5.

Du H, van der A DL, Boshuizen HC et al. Dietary fiber and subsequent changes in body weight and waist circumference in European men and women. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91(2):329-36.

Peters EM, Anderson R, Nieman DC, et al. Vitamin C supplementation attenuates the increases in circulating cortisol, adrenaline and anti-inflammatory polypeptides following ultramarathon running. Int J Sports Med 2001;22(7):537-43.

 

Is Coffee Good for You?

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CoffeeDrinking coffee will leave you dehydrated and geeked out on caffeine. For several decades we’ve been warned about America’s favorite beverage. Yet these dire warnings were largely based on assumptions rather than actual science. A growing body of evidence suggests your morning Cup O’ Joe may be good for you! Here’s a look at the latest research.

What’s in a Coffee Bean?

Coffee beans are actually seeds from coffee cherries. They are picked, dried, and roasted turning them from green to those familiar aromatic brown beans we know and love. It’s ironic that a beverage made from seeds has gotten such a bad rap. Green coffee beans are naturally rich in antioxidants including chlorogenic acids, compounds that are readily absorbed in the human body, have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory actions and are associated with many health benefits including a reduction in cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidants protect plants from disease and pests. Some antioxidants also protect human cells from harm. Roasted coffee beans are loaded with antioxidants (contrary to popular belief, they are not destroyed during roasting) and scientists are slowly uncovering the metabolic fate of each type antioxidant as well as the potential health benefits associated with regular coffee intake.

Potential Health Benefits

A National Institutes of Health study published in 2012 found older adults who drank caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee were less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections. Those who drank over 3 cups per day had a 10% lower risk of death compared to those who did not drink coffee. Though this study only showed an association between coffee consumption and a decreased risk of death, it provided some reassurance to people who couldn’t seem to give up their favorite beverage. Studies published over the past three years lend strength to the relationship between regular coffee intake and a decreased risk of certain diseases.

Heart Health
A study published in the British Medical Journal’s publication Heart, examined diet and artery health in over 25,000 Korean men and women. Those who drank 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day were 19% less likely to have the first signs of atherosclerosis,  plaque buildup on artery walls, compared to those who were not coffee drinkers. Lower intakes were not associated with a reduction in plaque buildup. Drawbacks to this study: diet was examined at one point in time and study subjects were asked to recall their coffee intake over the previous year (people generally don’t recall their food / drink intake with great accuracy). Also, keep in mind this study showed an association between coffee intake and artery health, it doesn’t prove that coffee reduces plaque buildup on artery walls or that it can prevent cardiovascular disease. More research is needed to understand how coffee intake could potentially support heart health.

Cancer
A recently published study found individuals previously treated for stage III colon cancer who were regular coffee drinkers, consuming at least 4 cups of caffeinated coffee per day, had a 42% lower risk of recurrence of colon cancer and 33% lower risk of dying from the disease. This study found an association between coffee intake and decreased risk of colon cancer recurrence.

Research on coffee intake and risk of various cancers is mixed with some showing it is protective and others suggesting it may increase risk. Keep in mind there are many potential factors that impact cancer risk and risk of cancer recurrence with a sedentary lifestyle, high body fat and alcohol intake strongly associated with increased risk of certain types of cancer. Fruit and vegetable intake is associated with a decreased risk of some types of cancers. As for your Cup O’ Joe, time and more research, will tell us how America’s favorite beverage fits in the picture.

Should You Increase Your Coffee Intake?

All of these studies on regular coffee consumption include higher intakes. No benefits are noted for lower intakes – one to two cups per day. Keep in mind that some people should avoid or be cautious with caffeine intake including kids, teens, people with anxiety disorders, glaucoma, heartburn or cardiovascular disease. Also, pregnant women should avoid higher intakes of caffeine – more than 3 cups of coffee per day (regular sizes cups). Now about the caffeine – regular intake of moderate amounts of caffeine will not dehydrate you.

If you drink coffee in moderation, enjoy it! Don’t increase your intake based on these studies or start drinking if you aren’t a regular coffee consumer. Future research will tell us more about the many naturally occurring compounds in coffee, their actions in the body and the potential link between coffee and disease risk.

References
Heart 10.1136/heartjnl-2014-306663
New Eng J Med 2012;366:1891-1904.
J Nutr 2008;138(12):2309-15.
Mol Nutr Food Res 2005;49:274–84.
J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54:8738–43.
Am J Epidemiol 2002;156:445–53.
Biol Pharm Bull 2006;29:2236–4
Pest Manag Sci 2003 Apr;59(4):459-64.
J Clin Oncol 2015 Aug 17. [Epub ahead of print]

 

 

Help Dry Eyes with Better Nutrition

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Tears protect your eyes from dust, infections and pollution. And therefore, those with chronic dry eye, caused by either a decrease in tear production (the prescription drug Restasis helps this) or tears that evaporate too quickly, may notice their eyes are frequently so dry they hurt, sting or feel gritty. In addition, chronic dry eye can lead to blurred vision, heightened sensitivity to light or smoke/pollution, excessive tearing, or like someone took sandpaper and rubbed it on them. There are a number of causes of chronic dry eye including Lasik surgery, thyroid disorders, and certain autoimmune diseases (including Sjogren’s syndrome, which causes drying of the mucus membranes including the eyes, mouth and sinuses). If left untreated chronic dry eye can lead to irritation, inflammation, blurred vision, increased risk of developing an eye infection, and scarring of the cornea.

How can you soothe chronic dry eyes? Follow these steps:

  • First and foremost – see an ophthalmologist.
  • Drink plenty of fluid every day.
  • Eat fatty fish at least twice per week or consider a fish oil supplement (always tell your physician about any dietary supplements you are taking). I typically recommend at least 1 gram of EPA + DHA combined (check the label to see how much EPA and DHA the product contains per serving; EPA and DHA are the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish). Two grams decreases inflammation throughout the body.
  • Consider caffeine in moderation. One study found that caffeine may help increase tear production.
  • Cut down on antihistamine use if possible. Allegra, Zyrtec and other antihistamines can increase dryness. Decongestants also increase dry eye so weigh the benefits versus side effects before using them.
  • Use eye drops for dry eyes (not those for redness).
  • Put warm compresses on your eyes for 10-15 minutes at a time.
  • Cut down on diuretics unless they are prescribed by your physician.
  • Talk to your physician about all of your medications. Certain blood pressure drugs, birth control pills and other prescription medications can increase dryness.
  • Take breaks from the computer, TV, iPad and other electronics. Starring at these for hours may further decrease tear production.

Inhalable Caffeine? Think Again

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By Sara Shipley, Nutrition and Dietetics Student

What will they come up next? A few months ago, AeroShot was released in the US(NY and Boston markets) from Breathable Foods. This product is an inhalable form of energy. It looks like a small bullet casing, silver and yellow- this powerful little shot packs a punch. It contains 100 mg caffeine, B vitamins and a slew of other flavorings and sweeteners. Manufactured in France, AeroShot is the brainchild of Harvard professor David Edwards. His company, Breathable Foods launched this product in Europe last year and this is not the first ingestible product they have developed. Le Whif, a breathable chocolate product.

AeroShot is marketed to athletes, students or tired professionals, age 12+ of course. The website touts ‘no calories, no liquid, no limit’.  Born from David Edwards’s idea that rather than ingesting nutrients, you could inhale them. On technicality, the website does not necessarily advise ‘inhaling’, but to ‘draw the powder gently into your mouth’.

So, we all know the benefits of caffeine when moderately consumed. It can pull you through an afternoon lull at work, it can jumpstart your cycle session at the gym or ‘the best part of waking up’- your morning joe. We also know the effects of overdoing it- feeling jittery, headaches and an elevated heart rate. So, naturally this product raises eyebrows- FDA namely…

  • Is inhaling caffeine safe?
  • Will abusing this product be harmful?
  • If unintended for youth- why does the marketing and advertising lean towards this population?

AeroShot refutes these concerns with several ‘scientific explanations’ on their website. Allegedly, AeroShot particle size is too large to enter lungs, rather it reaches your mouth and is swallowed and ingested into the blood stream. They go on to solidify the efficacy of their product by unsubstantiated clinical studies that ‘have shown that AeroShot delivers caffeine into the bloodstream at the same rate of drinking caffeine’. The convenience factor is the portability and quickness of ‘pulling it out of your pocket’”

Although this product is NOT currently banned, the FDA wants to warn consumers. The effects of inhaling caffeine have not been researched and therefore they want to raise a red flag to use this product with caution. They also want AeroShot to reconsider their marketing, as a recent report from the NY Daily News reports, “The Food and Drug Administration reviewed your website at www.aeroshots.com in February 2012 and has determined that the product AeroShot is misbranded,” … “We also have safety questions about the product.” In the past week alone, this story has been buzzing across all mediums- weighing in on the safety of this product. Creator and founder, David Edwards is quoted in Medical Daily online, “Even with coffee — if you look at the reaction in Europe to coffee when it first appeared — there was quite a bit of hysteria,” the Harvard University professor and AeroShot inventor David Edwards had told AP in February. “So anything new, there’s always some knee-jerk reaction that makes us believe ‘Well, maybe it’s not safe.”

Although this product is legal, interesting and yet another innovative tool to get you through your long, tiring days or hard workout- is this safe? Sure, in moderation everything is okay. But, the potential for abuse seems high. I’m curious to see how this controversy affects the life of AeroShot. In theory, it’s great. But, we all know that not everything theoretical is smart for the average consumer.

 

 

My Anti-Inflammatory Stack

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Lately I’ve got bad tendonitis. Too much typing, not enough stretching or massage, not following the RICE protocol, whatever the contributing factors are, all I know is that it hurts and popping NSAIDS is beyond useless. If you’ve spent your fair share of quality time in training rooms, in ice baths (I’m sold on these after my experience with them at Athlete’s Performance Institute), with a stem machine and more, you know how frustrating it is to be injured. And while there’s typically no one modality that works perfectly to fight pain and inflammation, a variety of things can help get you back to practice. And, nutrition plays an important role so, I developed my own concoction or “stack” (partly because I love mixing stuff together).

So here it is and below this a little why on the ingredients I chose:

  • Milk
  • Protein powder that’s rich in BCAAs (I used Isatori’s Eat Smart because it blends well and Muscle Milk Light Chocolate Mint)
  • Fresh cut pineapple
  • Frozen mango
  • Fresh ginger (peeled of course; I put in a nice 1 inch x 1/2 inch chunk)
  • Blueberries or frozen acai

There are 2 things missing that I could have added: caffeine and fish oil (though you can down this by pill form with any meal).

Now the rationnale:

  • Milk is loaded with high quality protein, calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and it tastes good so that’s my base.
  • I added protein (and high quality protein rich in branched chain amino acids)because it is key for building and repairing muscle.
  • Next I threw in an anti-inflammatory cocktail starting with fresh pineapple which is loaded with bromelain which fights inflammation;
  • Mango – may help with inflammation and makes my shake nice and thick!
  • Ginger – two studies at my alma mater UGA shows that 2 grams of ginger per day helps reduce exercise-induced muscle pain.
  • Red, purple, and blue fruits and vegetables contain antioxidant flavonoids that may limit inflammation, limit tissue breakdown, improve circulation and promote a nice strong collagen matrix.
  • Caffeine post exercise (granted, you may need a nice strong dose since studies have used 5 mg/kg body weight) can decrease delayed onset muscle soreness and pain after hard core exercise. If you want it in shake form, use a protein powder that contains caffeine or use cold coffee as your base.

And there you have it! My research-based, tastes great shake. Now if only I could incorporate the RICE technique somewhere on a beach overlooking blue ocean water, I’d be pain free!

Caffeine’s Placebo Effect on Performance

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Caffeine is one of the oldest performance-enhancing aids around.  According to the summary article on caffeine by the JISSN, it:

  • enhances performance when consumed in doses of about 3-6 mg per kilogram bodyweight (more isn’t better)
  • has a greater performance-enhancing effect when consumed by pill vs. liquid (coffee for instance)
  • keeps you mentally alert (it’s the most widely used CNS stimulant in the world)
  • benefits sustained maximal endurance exercise as well as run and stop type intermittent exercise (soccer for instance)
  • it doesn’t dehydrate you

And, while caffeine works, it may also have a placebo effect going for it. According to a study presented at BASES, simply telling your athletes they are ingesting caffeine may help them peform better. In this (very small) study, 12 cyclists were asked to perform a series of trials:

  1. Team 1 was told they would be receiving caffeine and given caffeine
  2. Team 2 was told they would receive a placebo and given a placebo
  3. Team 3 was told they would receive caffeine but given a placebo
  4. Team 4 was told they would receive a placebo and given caffeine

Each participant took part in every trial and therefore they were given a chance to be on each of the 4 teams above; exercise consisted of a 30 second all out cycling sprint performance.

The results showed that Team 1’s sprint power was highest and Team 2’s the lowest but, Teams 3 and 4 were exactly the same indicating that an athlete may react to simply being told they are getting caffeine.

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise when you consider the # of supplements athlete’s think work when the research-based reality shows little to no affect on parameters of performance, recovery or prevention of illness. After all, the belief that something works or that you can perform better will take an athlete further than not using the principles of sports psychology. Performance is multi faceted and, when small differences separate first and second place, you’ve got to use every possible performance enhancing aid available including one of the most powerful ones – your mind.

Caffeine Boosts Performance

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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.

For the ISSN’s position stand on caffeine and performance, click here. For more information about the many perks of caffeine, click here.