How many of us set our alarms for a bright-and-early workout and then hit the gym without anything in our stomachs? Guilty as charged, over here at least. For a long time now, science has told us that drinking caffeine pre-workout can help boost performance — but nutritionists, trainers, and scientists also thought that we should be abstaining from caffeine for weeks before a big event in order to reap the benefits of the caffeine-jolt day-of. A new study now tells us that's not true.
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To give some brief background here, obviously caffeine is a stimulant. When it's taken roughly an hour prior to exercise, it leads to slightly stronger and faster performance. This is mainly because when caffeine is in the body it is easier for muscles to burn body fat — it also makes people feel more awake and alert which can in turn make exercise feel easier.
According to a new study recently published in the Journal of Applied Physiology by Brazilian professor Bruno Gualano, people can drink caffeine every day and still receive a caffeine-boost when competition calls for it. Prior to the results of this study caffeine fasts had been recommended before a big event, so that the caffeine would be more effective on the day it was really needed.
To test whether it was needed or not Gualano and his colleagues recruited 40 male competitive cyclists. As Food and Wine put it, "First, riders were asked about their regular caffeine intake, and subsequently divided into a low-caffeine group, a moderate-caffeine group, and a high-caffeine group. The riders were then asked to return to the lab three times for timed athletic trials. Before the first trial, each was given a caffeine tablet. Before the second, they were given a lookalike placebo tablet made up of only gelatin and no caffeine. No tablets were given before the last ride."
The results showed that all of the cyclists got a performance boost from caffeine. Or as Gualano put it, "No matter the habitual caffeine intake in the diet, acute caffeine supplementation can improve performance." There were some gaps in this study though, namely that the study was solely performed on men, and healthy men at that. The other caveat is that you can't just consume endless caffeine without eventually teetering into the detrimental side effects including heart palpitations, upset stomach, and jitters.
Point being, a man shouldn't go out and drink all the caffeine just to chase a trophy, but by the same token caffeine deprivation is not necessary either. So keep drinking your caffeine (in moderation, of course). It might help you win.