Caffeine is one of the most consumed ingredients in the world, and for good reason! They link this natural stimulant to many health benefits, most notably improving athletic performance and enhancing cognition!
When it comes to ergogenic aids, caffeine takes the trophy as one of the most effective and popular supplements for boosting performance.
With the abundance of pre-workouts on the market, each with a different caffeine source and content, it can be tricky to know what the optimal dose of caffeine is to reap the noted benefits.
With that, there are also many side effects associated with consuming high amounts of caffeine. So, anyone who’s not quite in the know about this stimulant may find that it does the exact opposite to improving exercise performance.
This article refers to the science to establish the ideal caffeine intake to boost performance and avoid possible side effects!
What is Caffeine and What Does It Do?
Coffee is likely the first thing you think of when you hear caffeine. Each morning, billions of people around the globe pour themselves a coffee while getting ready for the day ahead, hence why it’s the most consumed ingredient!
This natural stimulant is sourced from the fruit, leaves, and beans of the coffee, cacao, and guarana plants and can also be synthetically created.
Once you consume caffeine, it mainly affects your brain function within about 20 minutes. The reason you feel so awake and alert after consuming caffeine is because it blocks the effects of adenosine.
Adenosine is the neurotransmitter involved in relaxing the brain and making us feel tired. This brain chemical builds up throughout the day, making us feel sleepier as the night draws in.
Simply put—caffeine blocks these effects, keeping us more wakeful, alert, and stimulated.
In addition to this, caffeine also boosts our levels of adrenaline, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain, further stimulating us and making us feel more alert and focused.
You are probably beginning to see how this may help sports performance—let’s explore!
Caffeine for Sports Performance
Caffeine is one sports supplement that can boost performance in any kind of exercise or activity, which makes it such a staple supplement in any athlete’s stack.
Caffeine for Endurance Performance1
Research suggests that you would likely reap the best benefits from caffeine if you’re an endurance athlete.
Consuming caffeine before an endurance-based activity such as cycling, long-distance running, cross-country skiing, or rowing has been shown to improve performance significantly by raising time to exhaustion.
This means that you can go on for longer before fatigue sets in, which is particularly useful for endurance-based sports!
Caffeine for High-Intensity Exercise1
While the research in this area is currently mixed, there still appears to be some benefits to consuming caffeine before high-intensity training.
It is thought that caffeine may improve high-intensity exercise and sprint performance, particularly in sprinting, rowing, and team sports.
Caffeine for Strength Gains1
Believe it or not, not only is caffeine advantageous for endurance and high-intensity training, but also for strength!
While research is still emerging, it’s being suggested that caffeine may provide additional benefits to those who are involved in power- and strength-based sports.
Given that caffeine is thought to improve muscular endurance, this may also translate to strength, especially in weightlifting for multiple repetitions.
Caffeine for Fat Loss1
It seems that caffeine can go full circle regarding improving performance and also body composition.
It should come as no surprise that one of the major effects of caffeine is increased energy and alertness. This would enable any individual to move more, train harder, and thus, burn more fat.
Additionally, studies have shown that caffeine may also help release fat stores during a workout. This would enable the body to burn fat faster by increasing heat production and epinephrine, thus helping to boost fat loss and calorie burn.
How Much Caffeine Should I Take Before a Workout?
Research has currently concluded that the optimal dose of caffeine for improving exercise performance is 3-6mg per kg of body weight.1
As an example, this would be around 240-480mg for an 80kg individual.
For added context, 400mg of caffeine is equivalent to around four cups of coffee, three energy drinks, or around 11 Coca Colas.
Consuming these sources of caffeine all in one go is probably not the best approach before a training session, right?
This is why many gym-goers and athletes opt for more appropriate sources of caffeine to consume before a workout, such as pre-workout powders.
These are formulas including many other ingredients, most commonly caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, and L-citrulline.
Though, you can also find caffeine in the form of gum or pills (caffeine anhydrous), which is more appealing for those who take part in endurance sports where they must be cautious with fluid and food intake before training.
Caffeine Side Effects
Some of the most well-known side effects of caffeine include:
- Restlessness and shakiness
- Rapid heart rhythm
Though, this is highly individual and down to personal tolerance and dose. This is why it’s key to gauge your own tolerance before experimenting with moderate to high doses.
If you have been consuming caffeine regularly for an extended period then suddenly stop, you may experience caffeine withdrawal, which includes headaches, nausea, and irritability.
While caffeine has many great benefits, particularly for sports performance, it’s still a powerful stimulant that can have side effects if it’s abused or not consumed with caution.
Before taking any new supplement, you should consult your doctor!
The Best Way to Take Caffeine
There is not really one best way to take caffeine. Interestingly, every individual has a different tolerance to caffeine, so regardless of what source of caffeine you opt for, it’s key to start on a low dose.
Before moving on to higher doses of caffeine, you must gauge your physical response to avoid any potential side effects or adverse reactions.
Several factors can contribute to an individual’s caffeine tolerance, including habitual intake (regularly consuming caffeine can increase tolerance), and genes (some people have a gene that causes them to be sensitive to caffeine, giving a more amplified reaction).
This makes it all the more important to consume with caution and find a source and a dose that works for you personally and for your sport. This is especially true for competitive athletes, as poor control over caffeine intake could have a negative impact on sleep, training performance, and mood.
Having said this, the most commonly used timing of caffeine is 60 minutes pre-training.
Though, this should also be approached on an individual level, as the source and dose of the caffeine would also depend on how quickly you experience a physiological response.
While caffeine is effective as a standalone supplement for improving sports performance, one of the best ways to take it is as part of a pre-workout formula such as Pre Lab Pro.
Pre Lab Pro combines caffeine with:
- Beetroot powder
- Himalayan Pink Salt
- Essential vitamins and minerals
Not only would you get the benefits from caffeine alone, but it would also complement the effectiveness of all the other ingredients contained.
Pre Lab Pro is a next-gen pre-workout formula designed to enhance your performance and recovery through increasing blood flow, supporting energy and focus, and maximizing your fitness gains.
The Bottom Line
Caffeine is one of the most popular ergogenic aids in the sports supplement world. Due to the emerging research in various sports and exercise settings, the demand for caffeine supplements is increasing.
Research so far suggests an intake of 3-6mg per kg of bodyweight to be consumed approximately 60 minutes pre-training.
However, due to the several factors that contribute to an individual’s tolerance, it’s best to take a bespoke approach to consuming caffeine.
Our advice is to consult your doctor before taking a caffeine supplement, then starting on a low dose to gauge your tolerance before experimenting with moderate to high doses.
The side effects of caffeine are not pleasant, so it’s important to take precautions around consumption and opt for a good quality source.
Pre Lab Pro is our top pick for a pre-workout formula that contains just enough caffeine to provide the performance enhancing benefits. This is alongside many other effective ergogenic aids and nitric oxide boosters proven to support training and recovery!
- Guest, N.S., VanDusseldorp, T.A., Nelson, M.T. et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 18, 1 (2021).