Some of us can’t start the day without a boost of caffeine, but just how useful is it for our progress in the gym?
The story seems to be the same for many of us. We roll out of bed, meander downstairs still in that sleepy haze, brew a cup of coffee, and suddenly we are as alert as ever. That boost we get from caffeine can be addictive and as a powerful stimulant, its properties of helping or hurting our progress in the gym have long been debated.
Studies have shown great benefits to caffeine and offers us a great boost of joy knowing we aren’t hurting our bodies with three cups of coffee a day. Then something else comes out expressing the dangers of caffeine and we fall into that pit of despair as we throw our third cup of coffee away.
But as a legal stimulant, caffeine is something that has been around forever and has long been used by athletes to stimulate weight loss and enhance exercise performance by promoting energy and alertness. But the argument around caffeine and athletic performance stems from its ability to raise stress levels in those already committing themselves to exercise induced stress. So, while this natural stimulant has great benefits for some facets of athletic performance and bodybuilding, there are some downsides that are important to take note of.
What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in coffee, tea, and cacao plants and works by stimulating your brain and central nervous system (1). This is where your feelings of alertness and prevention of exhaustion comes into play. Caffeine mainly affects the brain and functions as a hormone blocker for adenosine, a neurotransmitter that relaxes the brain. For those who drink coffee late at night and wonder why falling asleep is so challenging, it is because caffeine has constantly been blocking your relaxation receptors, leaving you totally wired.
While caffeine has an abundance of benefits including aiding in weight loss, improving performance, and promoting gut health, unfortunate side effects include anxiety, restlessness, and poor sleep and can lead to headaches or high blood pressure (2). Many fat burner supplements and pre-workouts happen to contain the substance to assist in your bodybuilding progress. But the challenge comes with taking the right doses of caffeine so it helps you instead of leading you down a path of regression.
The Positives Of Caffeine
Caffeine can aid in weight loss by kickstarting the process of lipolysis, which is great because your body releases free fatty acids into the bloodstream by breaking fat stores to be used for energy (3). It is a great way to boost your metabolism in order to find stored fat energy. As a result of this process, your body has energy to burn, and fat energy at that, to keep you working hard through those grueling workouts as you seek to build muscle and shed fat for your bodybuilding progress.
As a stimulant that blocks those adenosine receptors, your brain doesn’t feel the sensation of exhaustion or relaxation and gives you that mental energy to keep grinding in the gym to results quickly. With a rise in dopamine and norepinephrine as a result of this as well, your mood and brain function increase allowing for better work to be done. Caffeine is a great natural stimulant to take for energy and fat loss and your bodybuilding progress is sure to see great gains.
But Be Aware of What it Can Do
Caffeine provides many great benefits, but the fear comes with too much of it and the negative result it can have on your body which can in fact counter all the progress you are making. Caffeine can lead to elevated levels of anxiety and stress (4), as well as raise your cortisol levels. The down side to elevated cortisol levels is that it can stunt your body’s natural recovery process if you consume too soon after a workout. For those who don’t, it is something to keep in mind, but for those who enjoy a cup right after a workout, maybe consider shifting your caffeine schedule around.
The real issues comes with how much caffeine you are actually ingesting (5). If you are taking caffeine through a pill form or a standardized liquid, then it is easy to keep track. But with different levels of varying degrees of strength for each coffee brand, it is important to look at just how much is in each cup.
The biggest thing to watch out for is if you are taking supplements that have caffeine. This could be a fat burner or a pre-workout, but either way, you may be consuming way more caffeine than you actually know. Don’t let jitters and anxiety consume you because of your caffeine intake and just work on timing your caffeine right so it works for your benefit, not your detriment.
Caffeine is an amazing stimulant and as an all-natural way to boost your energy levels and aid in weight loss, it can lead to increased strength and progress with your bodybuilding goals. While the benefits of caffeine seem to be great for your overall health if used right, misusing or abusing caffeine can provide serious detriment to your health. Avoid caffeine from sugary drinks and stick to coffee or tea but monitor your intake especially if you are taking a fat burner or pre-workout supplement.
All in all, you can enjoy weight loss and see bodybuilding progress without caffeine. If you are naturally full of energy, or are caffeine sensitive, there are other ways to see great growth in the gym. In moderation, caffeine is solid for those who do use it and who are seeking progress. Be smart, enjoy your morning coffee (and afternoon one too), and watch your bodybuilding goals progress so you look and feel great.
*Images courtesy of Envato
- National Library of Medicine. “Caffeine”. (source)
- McLellan, Tom M.; Caldwell, John A.; Lieberman, Harris R. (2016). “A review of caffeine’s effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance”. (source)
- Icken, D.; Feller, S.; Engeli, S.; Mayr, A.; Muller, A.; Hilbert, A.; de Zwaan, M. (2015). “Caffeine intake is related to successful weight loss maintenance”. (source)
- Richards, Gareth; Smith, Andrew (2015). “Caffeine consumption and self-assessed stress, anxiety, and depression in secondary school children”. (source)
- Cho, Hae-Wol (2018). “How Much Caffeine is Too much for Young Adolescents?”. (source)