Micronutrients

-Introduction

If you ask any knowledgeable person in the fitness industry what the most important dietary supplement is, they’ll most likely direct you to a multivitamin as their answer. Vitamins and minerals are essential for overall health, especially while being in a caloric deficit. Micronutrient is the term used for vitamins and minerals as they are ingested in smaller doses than macronutrients such as carbs or proteins, and they do not contain any calories.

Before we dive deeper into this topic, let’s first clarify that this information is focused on muscle growth and not health, longevity, or anything of that nature. The benefits of vitamins and minerals are well known, but the discussion here is their impact on performance and hypertension. 

-Vitamins

We’ll first discuss the importance of vitamins as they’re often mentioned before minerals. The most commonly used vitamins in athletics and bodybuilding are B-vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E. We’ll touch on them separately to get a better idea of each.

-B-Vitamins

B-vitamins are the most commonly sought-after group of vitamins because of their involvement in metabolism – mainly during endurance training, where energy production goes into overdrive. However, B-vitamin supplementation is often not needed; any regular diet in most developed countries has plenty of B-vitamins, making it unnecessary to consume extra, even for athletes. Furthermore, studies conclude that higher levels of B-vitamin consumption don’t have any positive effects on athletic performance. One riveting caveat is that exceedingly high doses of B-vitamins may even promote relaxation – not precisely what most athletes or bodybuilders are looking for in a supplement.

B-vitamins are often found in pre-workout supplements and energy drinks. Many people in the fitness industry believe B-vitamins are an energy-boosting substance. However, consuming amounts way above the RDI doesn’t add any extra benefits. Therefore, aim for foods like pork, chicken, and many vegetables for their high B-vitamin content. The primary athlete or bodybuilding diet doesn’t have to have extra B-vitamin intake.

-Vitamins C and E

Vitamin C and E together are both packed into a group of substances known as “antioxidants.” Understanding the role of antioxidants in the body is essential. We must first understand one of the byproducts of intense exercise, which is reactive oxygen species. Reactive oxygen species are commonly called “free radicals,” They readily bond to other microscopic substances inside the cell. This process can damage the cell, which leads to “oxidative stress.” The role of antioxidants is to combat oxidative stress as they bond to free radicals, avoiding damaging the cell. However, the problem with antioxidants and exercise is that oxidative stress chemically signals muscle repair and growth. So if you’re taking antioxidants and reducing oxidative stress from your workouts, chances are you’re going to have a weaker signal for muscle growth and minor overall adaptation to exercise.

Nonetheless, antioxidants still play an essential role in overall health. Just be cautious of supplementing with too many additional antioxidants if you’re focused on optimizing muscle growth. For instance, you can find vitamin C in citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, while vitamin E is in nuts and green, leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach.

-Vitamin D

Vitamin D is your best bet for maximizing performance and muscle gains when it comes to vitamin supplementation. Researchers discovered that vitamin D supplementation could increase natural testosterone levels, especially for those deficient or part of the older population. Consuming between 3000 and 5000 IU per day of vitamin D is enough for this benefit, especially if you’re not getting enough vitamin D through your nutrition or sun exposure. In addition, having a healthy testosterone level is vital for building muscle gains as testosterone directly affects protein synthesis and overall strength and muscle growth. Not to mention, testosterone increases confidence and quality of life.

Researchers have also discovered that muscles have vitamin D receptors. This means that vitamin D could also play a critical role in protein synthesis and influence muscle strength. In addition, vitamin D is essential for bone health. Low vitamin D levels are associated with high risks in bone injuries . Therefore, supplementing with vitamin D is necessary for those who are looking to capitalize on their performance.

Vitamin D can be difficult to consume through a regular diet and exposure to the sun, especially during the winter when it’s colder. However, eggs and fish are both excellent sources of vitamin D. Most of the time, vitamin D is added to orange juice and dairy products. With that said, try to have some of these sources in your diet along with a vitamin D supplement of up to 5000 IU. Vitamin D3 is your best choice when it comes to vitamin D products.

-Vitamin Conclusion

Ultimately, if you’re not going through a period of dietary restriction and aren’t picky about your food, taking a multivitamin is more than likely unnecessary . Vitamin D is the only vitamin that has a potentially positive effect on performance, easily found in sports nutrition stores or grocery stores. Just don’t expect a massive increase in muscle gains from vitamin D supplementation. If you were deficient in vitamin D before supplementation, you could notice some effects. However, for most bodybuilders and athletes, vitamin D would support training and gains versus boosting them.

On the flip side, taking a multivitamin is advised during cuts. Especially during an extreme amount when you have to shred down for a show or weight class-restricted athletic event. Once you start restricting calories and overall food consumption, you’re more likely to have various vitamin deficiencies. This is why multivitamins should be used as a tool during extreme cuts; however, you should optimize your diet first.

-Minerals

Minerals are more important than vitamins for athletes and bodybuilders. Why? Because while we sweat, we lose most of our minerals. If you’re working out hard, you’re going to sweat a lot. Let’s get into some extra unique minerals that you’ll want to focus on if you are an athlete or a bodybuilder.

-Sodium

When it comes to performance, sodium is probably the essential mineral to consume. Sodium plays a critical role in muscle contractions and supports the fluid balance within a cell. As a result, sodium gets quite a lot of backlash in popular media. However, the problem is that the basic needs and requirements for sodium are directed towards sedentary people. Athletes have much higher sodium needs than the general population. How much more, you might ask? Let’s take a look at it this way:

Let’s say that you are an average sweater, which means that you produce about 1.5-liters of sweat per hour of intense exercise. Let’s also assume that you are a hardcore bodybuilder. So chances are, you get in 2-hours of heavy training on workout days and, therefore, lose around 3-liters of sweat every training session. The main mineral that we lose when we sweat is sodium. Remember that we lose about 1.15-grams of sodium per liter of sweat, which means that an intense 2-hour workout will result in around 3.45-grams of sodium loss. What’s the best way that you can replace that sodium? Salt! Salt has 40% sodium, which means that you would have to have over 8-grams of salt to replace the sodium you lost when you were sweating.

Even though the daily salt recommendation for sedentary people is about 2.3-grams of salt per day, ignore that completely. If you’re reading this, you are the type of person that works out, so those rules don’t apply to you, at- all. Instead, liberally salt your food, eat snacks with salt in them like peanuts or beef jerky, and don’t hesitate to cook meats in high-sodium marinades or sauces. Salt is essential to maintaining both strength, endurance, and performance. So make sure that you are taking in higher levels of salt as an athlete or gym-goer. Of course, if you’re cutting water for a fitness competition or weight class-restricted event, you’re going to have to modify your sodium levels as well. However, that conversation is a little out of the scope, for now, so we’ll leave that topic for another time.

Considering that you’re maintaining a proper intake of all electrolytes and consistently working up a sweat, blood pressure issues are unexpected to arise. Especially if you are within the healthy body composition range, however, if you are a bit overweight or have a blood pressure issue run in your family, it might be a good idea to regularly check your blood pressure when adding salt to your eating regimen. Health definitely should come before muscle gains, so make sure you keep this in mind when planning your diet.

-Magnesium

Magnesium is another mineral essential for performance as it is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the human body. Many of these enzymatic reactions have a direct impact on muscle contractions and insulin sensitivity. Taking in higher magnesium levels through a regular diet can also be challenging, so magnesium supplementation might be a good idea for athletes, bodybuilders, and frequent gym-goers. Insulin sensitivity is essential for post-workout recovery, muscle growth, body composition, and overall performance. Therefore, consuming higher levels of magnesium is critical for improving performance. Magnesium also lowers or controls cortisol levels, impacting muscle growth as cortisol can adversely affect muscle growth and body composition.

Consuming between 300 and 500mg per day of magnesium glycinate appears to be the best way to go. It’s been known that some forms of magnesium could cause a tickle sensation in the stomach, but Glycinate has fewer side effects. However, Glycinate can be harder to find, so it’s best to go to a sports nutrition shop rather than a grocery store.

-Calcium

Calcium is essential because it is responsible for muscle contractions. However, calcium availability isn’t a big issue because we store around 99% of our bones while the other 1% is stored in our muscles. This means if our muscles need more calcium, they can get it from our bones . Having the proper calcium intake is crucial for athletes and bodybuilders because sweat and exercise can deplete bone calcium levels if not replaced . Having a depletion in calcium, combined with poor nutrition, can eventually lead to osteoporosis. If this happens, strength and size gains will essentially be impossible because you’ll be in the hospital with broken bones all of the time. The last statement is an exaggeration, of course, but healthy bones are happy bones.

It’s best to take in plenty of dairy through milk, cheese, and yogurt. However, if you’re lactose intolerant, you can eat leafy green veggies with a decent amount of calcium. Even though green leafy vegetables have calcium, you’ll probably still want to supplement to be on the safe side. Calcium supplements are best stacked with vitamin D because vitamin D increases overall calcium absorption in the bone. Calcium and vitamin D supplements are often combined anyways. This is a great way to save money and consume the proper amount of these micronutrients.

-Iron

Iron deficiency is more frequent in female athletes than male athletes, primarily because of the female menstrual cycle. Iron is an essential component of oxygen transportation in the blood. Therefore, if your iron levels are low, it can significantly reduce how much oxygen your blood carries and delivers to working muscles. Taking iron supplements has been shown to enhance endurance in women who were previously iron-deficient, so if you’re a woman, it may be a good idea to check out an iron supplement. Additionally, proper iron intake would also likely help with training recovery from the increase in oxygen delivery.

Red meat has high iron levels, so don’t hesitate to add some red meat to your diet to maintain or elevate your iron levels. Women are likely to get the most benefits from iron supplementation, but you should consider an iron supplement regardless of your gender if your diet is low in red meat.

-Zinc

Studies conclude that zinc supplementation can increase testosterone levels, especially in older individuals. Keep in mind that a handful of these studies have been performed by the inventors of the ZMA formulation, including Victor Conte of BALCO fame. However, studies in younger individuals seem to show no benefits to zinc consumption. So, it’s difficult to know how effective zinc is for increasing testosterone production.

Regardless, adding zinc with vitamin D could be a potential strategy for bodybuilders interested in boosting natural testosterone levels, especially if a given lifter has a deficiency in either micronutrient or has naturally low testosterone levels. Zinc can also enhance immune functions, which can have a direct impact on muscle growth. It’s almost impossible to make progress if your body is constantly battling bugs and colds. Zinc can also be depleted through sweat, so adding zinc-rich foods into your diet would be a good idea. Meats, eggs, and dairy are all excellent sources of zinc which would be good news for the typical bodybuilder’s diet.

-Mineral Conclusion

Ultimately, taking a multimineral would be a good strategy for the athlete or bodybuilder. Minerals can be challenging to come by in food, and we also lose a lot of our minerals through sweat. This is why extra supplementation is almost necessary to maintain proper levels. In addition, several more minerals may impact bodybuilding, and a multimineral supplementation would likely cover these.

Also, remember to lightly salt your food to make up for the sodium lost through heavy sweating while working out. You’re not going to notice an immediate performance boost or physique change from mineral supplementation, but your adaptations to your workouts will be better and more consistent over time. Also, your overall health and vitality will improve. Always remember, it’s more important to fuel yourself for long-term results, so do your best to have a proper diet rich in minerals.

References

1. https://academic.oup.com/bmb/article/55/3/683/406219

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2129136/

3. https://www.karger.com/Article/PDF/412604

4. https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1113/jphysiol.2014.279950

5. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/apha.12042

6. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/98/1/233/4578325

7. https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1113/jphysiol.2014.279950

8. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/6/1856

9. https://www.gssiweb.org/en/sports-science-exchange/article/sse-92-dietary-water-and-sodium-requirements-for-active-adults

10. https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijsnem/12/1/article-p63.xml

11. https://www.karger.com/Article/PDF/12744

The Importance of Hydration While Exercising

Introduction

One key element of planning that’s important for enhancing performance and physique optimization is a topic that people rarely talk about: and that’s hydration. I know; hydration is neither sexy nor fun to talk about, plus selling water as a performance enhancing supplement isn’t the best business plan. Which is why we hardly hear much about water and how it impacts your performance. However, as Bobby Boucher would tell you; H2O has a major impact on all aspects of fitness.

You all probably know that the majority of our body is made up of water. Water has tons of different functionalities within our cells and body. As much as I would like to speak about the many functions of water and successfully bore everyone to the grave like usual, let’s just focus on how water can influence our performance during our workouts and the outcome of our muscle development. Join me in a cup of high-quality H2O as we dive deeper..

Dehydration and Performance

First off let’s nip this in the bud right away – there’s no benefit to overhydrating yourself (1). If anything, your midsection will feel like a hurricane and you’ll be sprinting to the restroom every 20 minutes – not exactly the best scenario for exercising or competing. There is, however, a plethora of literature based on the negative effects of dehydration, so let’s examine these effects so that we can get a better idea of these consequences.

One review that covers hydration and performance affirms that even mild dehydration will decrease muscle force production by 2%, lower power output by 3%, and endurance performance decreases by a whopping 10% (4). Those stats may not sound huge or concerning, but if you are constantly dehydrated like the majority of people are, then you are missing out on a consistent basis on those few percentages every time you go to the gym to workout.

The fact that dehydration has negative effects on performance that occurs instantly, it can also largely affect long term performance and muscle gains. One study documented the effects of hormones when a person is dehydrated; and this study discovered that dehydrated subjects had an incline in cortisol levels after resistance training as opposed to the hydrated group (3). Which means that the dehydrated group will have higher rates of protein breakdown and will be forced to focus much harder on their diet to overcome this effect and build muscle. This study also discovered that dehydrated people had both higher insulin levels and higher blood glucose levels after their workouts (3). The decrease in cell volume due to lack of water produces cellular insulin resistance which will negatively impact your strength and muscle growth. Many would say that insulin is one of the most anabolic of hormones, so take advantage of monitoring your hydration levels.

Can Sweating Contribute to Dehydration?

Now let’s get into what counts as dehydration and how sweating can affect the status of hydration. Studies have shown that a decrease in as little as 2% body mass due to dehydration is enough to negatively affect performance levels (6). For example, if you normally weigh 180 pounds and you weigh yourself before a workout, any reading under 177 pounds means you will more than likely be decreasing some of the weight on the bar or you’ll be lacking on some key reps during your workout. Assuming that you ignore your dehydrated state and get under the bar anyways.

If it’s one of those hot days in the gym and you’re giving it all that you got, it’s reasonable to assume you’re sweating about 1.5-liters per hour (6). This would be congruent to about 3 pounds of water lost per hour which means that you are down by almost 2% body weight in just one hour. If you’re training outside in the heat, it’s possible to sweat up to 3-liters an hour which would be about 6 pounds an hour worth of water that will be drenched from your body (6). Studies have also discovered that training in any temperature above 60-degrees Fahrenheit can increase cardiovascular strain (2),so if you’re dehydrated and working out at room temperature, you’re making things a lot more difficult on your heart than necessary.

Another caveat to consider is salt. The average person sweats out around a gram of sodium per liter of sweat (6). Sodium is a key component of muscle contraction, especially while being in a fatigued state. Having a sufficient amount of sodium is also necessary for maintaining optimal fluid volume within a cell (6), so normally if you’re low on sodium, there’s a big possibility that you’re also low on water and vice-versa. The need for sodium consumption is understated for athletes – let’s save this conversation for another time – so make sure you’re taking in the efficient amount of sodium around your workouts along with chugging down water.

Keys to Hydration

Fortunately, drinking 1/2 liter of water per hour of exercising is enough to counter further dehydration or lowering of body weight during training (2). In terms of metric measurements, a liter of water is 33 fluid ounces, so half of that would be 16.5 fl oz, or a medium-sized bottle of water. Drinking a quick swig of water is roughly an ounce, give-or-take a little. With that said, it’s easy to see that consuming between 16-33 fl oz during workouts isn’t too hard if you’re consistently taking a sip between sets. Even if you’re not feeling thirsty, it’s a good rule of thumb to take a trip to the water fountain or grab a quick swig from your bottle between sets. This is how you work smarter, and less harder!

So now that you know that being dehydrated can be terrifying, how can you prevent it from occurring before training? One review explains how consuming 500mL (16.9 fl oz) around 2-hours before training is a pretty good place to start (5). The best habit to form is to start sipping on water at least two hours before your workout if you haven’t already been taking in water all day. If you start to get light-headed or nauseous while working out, you’re most likely experiencing more than just dehydration, but you could have symptoms of hyponatremia as well, which occurs when your sodium levels are decreasing. Most sports drinks, such as Gatorade, have sodium in it so it’s definitely a good idea to sip on a sports drink during your training if you think you may have problems with sodium loss. I personally use a pre-workout that has a large amount of sodium and it has made a huge difference in my endurance. There are many intra-workout supplements that have solid electrolyte blends to help maintain sodium levels during intense exercise.

If you train in the morning, gulp on some water before going to bed at night. It’s inevitable that you will have to get up to use the restroom in the middle of the night, but this optimizes hydration before your morning workouts. I normally workout first thing in the morning and I aim to drink between 20-30 fl oz of water an hour before I go to bed along with my protein shake right before bed.

Conclusion

In conclusion, water may not be at all that exciting, but it may be one of the most essential elements for your current performance and your long term gains. Fortunately, it’s a deficit to overcome. All you have to do is keep a bottle of water around you at all times. If you get tired of drinking plain water, don’t hesitate to add some sort of flavoring into it to make it more palatable. Whatever must be done, just do it.

References:

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.583.3481&rep=rep1&type=pdf

https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-200737100-00006

https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.01010.2007

https://journals.lww.com/acsm-csmr/Abstract/2003/08000/Fluid_Balance_and_Endurance_Exercise_Performance.6.aspx

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2007.10719656

https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/70/suppl_2/S128/1811507?login=true

Caffeine & Fitness

Intro

Caffeine is the most commonly used energy booster. A Lot of people usually rely on caffeinated beverages to get their energy going, but athletes on the other hand, have long depended on caffeine to enhance their performance and focus during training and competition. Today, we’ll dive deep into what caffeine is, how it can improve performance, and if there’s a specific form of caffeine that will work best for your goals.

What Is Caffeine And How Does It Work?

Many people drink caffeine for their morning and mid-day pick-me-up, but athletes have actually been consuming caffeine to enhance performance for decades (if not even longer). In fact, back in 1939 (6), caffeine was pushed to be banned in all sports. Pretty much everyone has experienced caffeine one way or another, so it’s worth talking about what it actually is and what it does.

Caffeine is found in various plants. Commonly used in coffee beans; various teas and even cacao, in which all are natural caffeine content. Caffeine is labeled as a stimulant, which means that it “energizes” us in comparison to substances like alcohol, which is classified as a, “depressant.” How can caffeine energize us you might ask?

There are a handful of theories but the one that’s easier to understand is that caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in the brain. Once adenosine is engaged with receptors in the brain(6,7), it increases drowsiness and relaxation. The fact that caffeine reacts to this binding location, causes the exact opposite – which is alertness and energy. This blockage of adenosine can also contribute to hormones throughout the body. There’s also an increase in blood levels of epinephrine when people consume caffeine. Epinephrine is also known as, “adrenaline,” and is responsible for our heart rate to increase, causes our muscles to produce more force, and even helps with our metabolism.

Studies show that caffeine can also improve pain tolerance (6). There are many pain medications that contain caffeine to help alleviate pain symptoms. This is one of the reasons why athletes and bodybuilders often use caffeine; the burn isn’t as painful when you have caffeine in your system.

Another interesting fact about caffeine is that it can increase the performance of the heart through a unique interaction with the muscle cells that are in the heart. Cardiac muscle fibers share similar attributes to skeletal muscle. However, we have more functional control over our skeletal muscle which creates a wide range of force within our skeletal muscles. All of our muscle fibers adhere to a few laws, one is known as the Length-Tension relationship. The concept behind length Tension relationship is that a muscle fiber will promote x-amount of active force at a specific length.

When our heart is filled up with more blood, the muscle fibers of the heart will expand wider than it does at rest. This will result in the hearts muscle fibers to increase force while it contracts. This increased force pumps more blood which causes an increase of oxygen to be delivered to the muscles. When it comes to force production, cardiac muscle fibers become dependent on calcium concentration (2). A a small amount of calcium in these muscle fibers can reduce contraction, which will reduce force and overall cardiac output . Caffeine on the other hand, can actually help promote calcium concentration and sensitivity in cardiac muscle fibers .This helps the heart produce high levels of force, even while in an exhaustive state (1). Essentially, caffeine helps our heart pump more blood.

Performance & Endurance Effects

Endurance training is one of the most common sports/hobbies in which caffeine is consumed. Studies consistently conclude that there is a clear benefit of consuming caffeine before training or competition. However, positive effects depend on variables such as dosage, nutrition status, and even timing (3). Caffeine can increase endurance performance by enhancing alertness, and modifying circulating hormone levels.

Like I spoke about earlier, the most essential action of caffeine when it comes to endurance and performance is its ability to compete for adenosine receptors. The fact that adenosine contributes to drowsiness and fatigue, this can hinder muscle performance and even produce central nervous system fatigue, which makes it difficult to activate our muscles. Eventually adenosine will lead to an increased perception of both exertion and pain, and at some point of time you will want to quit training. This is the reason why caffeine has consistently proven to enhance performance in tests that include either distance or time to exhaustion (3). Even though these tests aren’t the most scientifically-sound, they help gather more data on how caffeine can increase performance.

It’s known that caffeine consumption can enhance metabolic rate due to its effects on various hormones (6). Nevertheless, caffeine can also increase fatty acid oxidation, which improves our ability to utilize fat as fuel (3). Since fat is the main fuel source in long distance, low-to-moderate intensity training, enhancing fat oxidation can help increase performance during these exercises.

Effects On Strength

Like the majority of exercise or nutrition-related research, most of the studies utilizing caffeine provide an endurance or cardio protocol, rather than including strength training. As of recently, research has examined the effects of caffeine on strength and power performance. Multiple studies have proved that caffeine can increase strength and power performance, but interestingly enough, caffeine may be more effective for enhancing upper body strength vs lower body strength (7).

How can caffeine improve strength? Alertness and overall arousal play a big role. For example, if you’re fatigued or feeling down before taking caffeine, you’re going to experience a boost in your strength. However, caffeine mainly builds strength by increasing muscle activation. Since caffeine blocks the activation of adenosine, our muscles are able to perform heavy or powerful lifting (7). Caffeine affects training performance from both a psychological (energy/focus) and physiological standpoint (muscle recruitment and fatigability).

Why does research not report a consistent increase in lower body strength from caffeine? Keep in mind that studies are limited by the scientific method, so they won’t always be congruent to real world training. While testing for strength on the lower body, movements are normally more complex and require a higher level of training experience and skill compared to upper body movements. Since most research uses untrained or moderately trained subjects, it’s difficult to compare upper and lower body strength tests, hence lower body strength tests may not be as reliable.

Gender differences are also relevant to the limitations of science and caffeine response. There’s no reason to imply that there’d be significantly different effects between men and women consuming caffeine, but unfortunately, there’s not much data on the effects of caffeine with female participants (7).

There’s also not many statistics on populations other than young adults. It remains undocumented if older adults will have a different response to caffeine consumption. I have a hunch that caffeine could be even more effective for older adults, especially when it comes to improving strength and fatigability.

Dosage & Safety

Research has been pretty consistent in documenting that the most effective dosage for caffeine consumption is somewhere between 3mg/kg of bodyweight and 6mg/kg of bodyweight (3,7). For a 200lb person, that would equal to a range of 272-545mg. It’s important to take note that this doesn’t mean you have to have this much caffeine. Some people could be more sensitive to caffeine and don’t need that much to get the job done. Personally I used to be the 2-3 scoops of pre-workout kind of guy because I needed 4-500mg of caffeine to get a boost for my workouts.. Now I stick with only 150mg of caffeine and get plenty amped with that. These are anecdotes, but do understand that the 3-6mg/kg is a recommendation, not a rule of thumb. Some individuals might feel a boost off of a single cup of coffee (roughly 100mg of caffeine), but the noticeable objective performance benefits begin around 3mg/kg of bodyweight.

What’s the best way to time your caffeine consumption around your workout? I’d recommend taking caffeine between 30-60 minutes before exercise. People normally see optimal blood levels around 60-minutes after consumption (6) which is why I recommend this timing. It’s best to avoid taking caffeine after your workout because caffeine can actually impair insulin sensitivity (12) and cause vasoconstriction (6). Both factors are definitely unwanted when trying to recover from a workout.

As far as safety, caffeine really doesn’t have any long-term health concerns or create any complications (6). However, this is referring to healthy people with no underlying conditions. If you have any type of cardiovascular disease or metabolic disease, you have to check with your physician before taking caffeine. In addition, caffeine can potentially worsen symptoms of anxiety and nervousness in some individuals (11), so if you’re prone to having anxiety, caffeine would not be the best bet for you. Lastly, it’s best to avoid taking caffeine close to bedtime as it can impair quality of sleep (11). Sleep is much more important for performance improvements and recovery than any supplement could ever be. So be sure to not mess with your sleep schedule!

Tolerance is another issue to look after when it comes to caffeine. Over time, we eventually start to adapt to our daily caffeine dose and no longer get the same energy out of that dose. This is why many people end up increasing their dose – hence why I was taking 2-3 scoops of pre-workout years ago. However, taking as little as a 7-day caffeine break can help bring your sensitivity back to where it was so you don’t have to buy a new container of pre-workout every 2-weeks. How fast does our tolerance build to caffeine? Unfortunately we adapt in as little as 15-days of consistent use (9).

What’s the best way to reduce the development of tolerance? The best way is to simply make sure that you’re not consuming caffeine every day [insert screaming emoji here]. I know this sounds almost impossible to do, but it will help keep your sensitivity in check. If that’s just not possible for you, aim for planning a week out of every month or two where you avoid caffeine for the entire week. Again, this could definitely be an awful week for you, but it will surely keep tolerance at bay!

What’s The Best Form Of Coffee?

Everyone knows that we can get caffeine from different sources; coffee, pills, chocolate, etc. But the question remains, is there a best form for exercise? Recent studies suggested that caffeine sourced from coffee might not be as efficient as the anhydrous (pill) form of caffeine. There was theory that some of the other bioactive components of coffee could interfere with caffeine’s effects (4). However, later studies were not able to duplicate those results (8), so it’s probably not as big of a deal as we initially thought.

Another type of caffeine that’s commonly used is tea. especially green tea. However, many have discussed if green tea is actually an effective source of caffeine since it also has the amino acid, L-theanine, which enhances relaxation. There’s not a ton of information regarding this combination in the realm of performance studies, but it has been documented that L-theanine can counteract some of the negative side effects from caffeine consumption, such as anxiety or jitters (10). Therefore, if you’re considering giving up caffeine use due to the side effects, try giving green tea a shot for a potentially smoother rush.

Overall, there’s not a specific form of caffeine that’s going to have magical effects in comparison to other forms. The best advice that I can give is for you to stick to whatever’s most convenient for you and your goals, whether that be a preworkout drink, caffeine pills, or a mug of coffee.

Conclusion

All-in-all, caffeine is one of the most effective supplements for athletes looking to enhance their performance. The majority of research on caffeine examines the acute effects of caffeine consumption, but if you reap these benefits throughout a long-term training routine, you’re going to see improved muscle development . Try your best to follow a strategy that promotes sustained sensitivity to caffeine – whether you make sure that you don’t take it every day or you take a week off every month or two. Long term use of caffeine is perfectly safe, just double check with your physician if you have any pre-existing conditions. Lastly, any form of caffeine is probably going to provide a boost both in and out of the gym, so use whatever form works best for you!

References

1. https://www.gwern.net/docs/nootropic/2008-owen.pdf

2. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0059561

3. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Terry-Graham-2/publication/13555289_Metabolic_and_exercise_endurance_effects_of_coffee_and_caffeine_ingestion/links/0deec52694e411c612000000/Metabolic-and-exercise-endurance-effects-of-coffee-and-caffeine-ingestion.pdf

4. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0210275

5. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00394-019-02167-2

6. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Terry-Graham-2/publication/11766595_Caffeine_and_exercise_metabolism_endurance_and_performance/links/5473b36a0cf29afed60f5972/Caffeine-and-exercise-metabolism-endurance-and-performance.pdf

7. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12937-016-0220-7

8. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12970-018-0216-0