As a full-time student with a job and a personal commitment to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, finding energy in my daily routine is something I crave. It can be hard to make time to hit the gym after a long day of classes, but often I find myself more refreshed post-workout than I would have been had I succumbed to endless hours of studying without an exercise break.
In addition to the energy gained from my usual cardio and light weight lifting routine, I’ve recently discovered the value of adding caffeine to my post workout snack, its stimulating effects add an extra kick to my energy levels and making me feel more alert. After discovering the positive trend, I looked deeper into the effects of caffeine when combined with a workout and was excited to learn that caffeine not only energizes but also can help improve muscle recovery!
How does caffeine energize you?
Caffeine works as a stimulant, entering the blood stream through the stomach and small intestine before being absorbed into the bloodstream, directly energizing the brain and central nervous system. It also increases the amount of adrenaline pumping through the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn causes your heart to beat faster, sends blood to your muscles, and creates that feeling of alertness that you associate with a caffeine rush. Finally, caffeine temporarily blocks the activation of receptors within your body which traditionally trigger feelings of tiredness and the need to sleep. As a bonus, caffeine is also known to have a range of benefits beyond energization such as increased metabolic rate, increased fat oxidation, and increased physical and mental energy (Tufts University).
How does caffeine help improve muscle recovery?
Glycogen acts as the primary fuel for muscles when engaging in exercises such as weight lifting, intense cardio, or even sports which engage muscles within the body. Once the body’s supply of glucose is consumed, there must be a recovery period for the muscles to create more glucose before physical exertion can be done again. In a study by the American Physiological Society, athletes’ muscles were shown to regain 66% more glycogen in four hours following intense exercise when the athletes consumed caffeine with carbohydrates as opposed to only carbohydrates (Phend). In the same study, it was also found that the signaling proteins credited with playing roles in glucose transport to and from the muscle were at elevated levels when caffeine was consumed, a key reason for the increased glucose production. With increased glucose levels in a shorter amount of time, muscle recovery is sped up beyond its normal rate (Pedersen).
Caffeine's effects have also been seen in association with reducing muscle soreness postworkout. Researchers from the University of Illinois found a statistically significant reduction in muscle pain after caffeine pills were given to the study subjects after muscle engaging workouts (Hendrick). Though further research is being completed now, a definitive connection has been drawn between caffeine and the brain and spinal cord components involved in pain processing, with caffeine minimizing the overall pain felt by post workout of both habitual users and first-time caffeine users.
How can I change up my caffeine consumption?
There are so many ways to introduce caffeine into your daily routine beyond your average cup of coffee. The taste of coffee is entirely based upon the type of beans you choose to roast so if you find yourself bored with your current blend, try changing things up a bit! Also, a little-known fact is that coffee can be consumed in solid food form with an Eat Your Coffee Bar! The Eat Your Coffee Bar is a caffeinated, date-based energy bar and is super tasty. My personal favorite flavor is coconut mocha; the blend of dark chocolate and gooey coconut is beyond delicious! If you’ve never thought about consuming your caffeine in an energy bar form, I would highly encourage you to at least give it a try. Who knows? You may never go back!
Pro Tip: While caffeine has endlessly beneficial effects, make sure to portion out your caffeine consumption and stick to 1-2 cups of coffee (or its equivalent in bar form) to minimize the possibility of negative effects such as shakiness or racing heart rate. Have you ever consumed caffeine before or after your workout routines? Would you consider adding caffeine to your workout after reading this article?