Understanding the Relationship Between Caffeine and Fitness
Athletes, like boxers, often drink beverages or take supplements that contain caffeine to gain a competitive edge. While there are some benefits in this area, taking caffeine to improve performance can be a double-edged sword. The relationship between caffeine is complicated and often difficult to understand. This article looks at caffeine as part of an athlete’s diet to help you determine whether you want to use it or if it is better to avoid it altogether.
When Caffeine Enters the Body
Because caffeine is absorbed quickly from the stomach, peak blood levels of the chemical can occur in about 45 – 60 minutes. Once it is circulating, caffeine can cause several responses in the body. Well known as a stimulant for the brain, there are also other physiological changes. Increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and stomach acid are noted. These can last up to 12 hours. However, with regular use, our body develops a tolerance to much of these effects. So, the benefits of caffeine as they relate to performance decrease over time and require higher doses to achieve the same effect.
Caffeine as a Performance Booster
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant. It has many benefits. However, it can also have drawbacks when used inappropriately. About 80 percent of Americans drink caffeine at least occasionally. The average daily intake of the chemical is around 200 mg each day, or sometimes a lower level of caffeine for pregnant people or those with a particular health condition is advised. Most of us are familiar with the benefits of heightened alertness and improved performance. The story doesn’t end there, however. Many people report feeling jittery and nervous after taking caffeine. This seems to be more pronounced in individuals who eat a clean diet and abstain from other types of drugs and alcohol. In this respect, caffeine can actually hinder performance, and so caffeine and fitness work together positively for your body.
Does Caffeine Cause Dehydration?
Not exactly. The US military has studied caffeine and its relationship to hydration and found that there was no significant impact when consumed in moderate amounts. It is thought, however, that because caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant, it may make users less likely to desire water throughout the remainder of the day. Coffee, in particular, is known to have to stimulate more frequent bowel movements, which may contribute to dehydration.
Potential Adverse Effects of Caffeine
When making the decision of whether to take caffeine and any other drug — it is important to consider the potential side effects.
Because caffeine does increase the production of stomach acid, it can worsen symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux.
Insomnia, poor sleep patterns and increased anxiety are all well-observed side effects of caffeine that can result in an overall lack of energy and fatigue.
Studies suggest that some people are more prone to caffeine-induced stress. A survey of over 2,000 heart attack cases was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. It showed that participants who were slower to metabolize the caffeine — a genetic predisposition — were more likely to suffer heart attacks.
As you can see, the relationship between caffeine and fitness is complicated. If you choose to use caffeine, it is best to understand the effect the chemical has on your body. It is established that caffeine does cause dependence over time. It has both mental and physical withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping. So, if you do decide to quit caffeine, it is recommended to do so over the course of a week or more to avoid the unpleasant detox symptoms.
If you have questions about how caffeine could be affecting your body, talk to our personal trainers and instructors and they can help point you in the right direction!