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Drinking coffee is not just a tasty pleasure. The caffeine contained in this drink has other effects that can be very useful for athletes. It has been known for many years to help improve physical performance.
Thus, caffeine is found in the composition of many products used by athletes. And recently, researchers have shown that this substance has interesting effects on muscle building. I will present to you in detail what it is.
1. Caffeine acts on muscle performance
This molecule is contained in coffee, but also tea (there is more in tea than in coffee!), chocolate or some sodas. It is known for its energizing effects, but it can also have notable effects as an ergogenic product. It is thus used to improve muscular work.
In absolute terms, a training session can give better results if it is accompanied by a caffeine intake. Obviously, caffeine is not a magic bullet that will make you build muscle in the blink of an eye. Exercise is essential. Especially since the effects of the product have been considered by the sports authorities (since 2004) as having slight effects. Therefore, caffeine is not considered a doping product.
2. Effects on muscular endurance?
However, caffeine is still recognized for its interesting effects for all those who practice endurance activities (like cycling, for example). The muscles will tire less quickly and will be able to “hold out” longer.
A study was recently conducted with bodybuilding enthusiasts. A dose of 5 mg per kilo was given to several athletes before their training, which consisted mainly of bench press and thigh press exercises. It was then noted that the repetitions were more important with those who had taken caffeine.
Thus, the number of repetitions was increased for bench presses by nearly 12% and nearly 20% for those who used the thigh press compared to the participants who took a placebo.
3. A role on voluntary maximum strength?
The improvement of muscular endurance is not the only one for which caffeine plays a recognized role. To verify this hypothesis, several studies were conducted and compared.
The maximum load lifted for a given movement was measured. Several women were given a dose of 6 mg of caffeine per kilo and the load they lifted (during a bench press) was measured and compared with that of women who had not taken caffeine. The observed value was 0.8 kg higher for those who had taken caffeine. The researchers also noted a clear muscular improvement via vertical jump tests.
4. A more effective action on the large muscles
Not all muscles are affected in the same way by the use of caffeine. Here again, studies have shown that the molecule has a different effect depending on the area of the body analyzed.
Even if it is noted that the maximum voluntary strength is improved, it has also been noted that this improvement is different depending on the type of muscle. Thus, the large muscles will find a greater benefit than the others. The knee extensor muscles, for example, will be “doped”, whereas caffeine will have a minor role on short muscles such as, for example, the small adductor of the thigh or the triceps.
This effect on the long muscles is particularly visible on the lower part of the body which includes more long muscles.
5. A recognized ergogenic effect, but complex
Doing bodybuilding, for example, will involve different actions. You have to contract your muscles, which can cause pain. The effort is important and tires. In competition, stress is added. The nervous system is then subjected to a strong pressure.
Using caffeine can then be useful. It will, in fact, act on the nervous system by blocking adenosine, a compound that appears when we are nervous and acts on the transmission of nerve messages by blocking them. It also reinforces the perception of pain.
Caffeine is known to block the appearance of this compound. The sportsman will feel less pain and will be more relaxed. He will have less risk of injury and can train longer and more intensely. To obtain this beneficial effect, the experts recommend to absorb a drink containing 179 mg of caffeine one hour before the exercises or the competition. The effort will be felt with less force, the muscles will be more reactive and the state of mind of the sportsman will be improved. His willpower will also be increased.
6. Improved muscle glycogen synthesis
The last impact that caffeine has on the muscles is that it significantly improves the production of glycogen (I remind you that these are the carbohydrate reserves essential for muscle recovery). By improving the production of glycogen, caffeine will allow a faster and better quality muscle recovery. When an athlete has consumed 8 mg of caffeine per kilo (associated with 4 g of carbohydrates per kilo), glycogen synthesis after an intense exercise session climbs and is improved by 66% compared to a person who has not consumed caffeine with their carbohydrates.
One more word
Before we finish, there is one more thing to say about the effects of caffeine on muscle. Even if today there is no longer any doubt about its effectiveness, we must be careful, because caffeine does not act on everyone in the same way.
Genetics is indeed important. Two genes must be taken into account. Cypa2 plays a role in the regulation of metabolism, while ADORA2A acts on the adenosine receptor. And these genes can vary from person to person. So people with little Cypra2 or ADORA2A will have less benefit. But even if it will be less effective on their muscles, they will still be able to benefit from the actions of caffeine.