What if I told you that there was a legal, cheap, and widely available physical agent that could immediately improve your workouts?
Though we typically consume caffeine in the morning, caffeine functions similarly to a supplement. Similarly to how we consume protein powders or bars when we are unable to consume a full meal following a lift or take pre-workouts prior to a difficult leg day, caffeine is something we use to help us squeeze out a few more reps and add on a few additional exercises at the end.
However, unlike the majority of supplements, caffeine is not an added benefit. Despite the advancements made in the development of protein powders — whey separated from curds or concentrated pea and rice proteins — they offer nothing novel. They assist us in maintaining a healthy macronutrient ratio, but are otherwise identical to food. They are not superior to eating real food; they are simply faster.
However, caffeine serves a unique purpose. It has been demonstrated to improve performance in strength sports, high-intensity exercise, and sprints — all of which lifters should be doing. When consumed following workouts, it can even aid in recovery.
“Caffeine, in sufficient amounts, is about the safest bet you can make.”
It has been demonstrated that consuming 5 mg of caffeine per kilogramme of body weight, minus one kilogramme, increases strength. Caffeinated athletes lifted 11% more weight on the bench press than the control group in a study conducted in Brazil. (The average cup of black coffee contains approximately 100 mg of caffeine, while energy drinks typically contain more.)
Caffeine also significantly improves upper body strength, as measured by a one-rep max — but not lower body strength, according to another study. Caffeine has been shown to have an indirect beneficial effect on mood and concentration, which results in improved reaction times, making it a sort of cognitive enhancer: caffeinated lifters may swing a kettlebell more effectively or move more quickly. Caffeine has been shown to improve the interaction between brain cells and muscles, a process known as proprioception, or what previous columns referred to as a greased groove. In a very crude way, drinking coffee before a workout has the same effect as if lifters had performed an exercise repeatedly, and that level of familiarity increases force production.
Nothing you can buy can guarantee a good workout, but caffeine in moderation is about the safest bet you can make, aside from sleeping and eating well. Or perhaps to ensure that the lifter is present and paying attention during the workout. A cup of coffee before a workout may compensate for a difficult workday or a sleepless night. It may even assist a lifter in completing a couple of reps. Additionally, if the lifter has sound habits to begin with, the workout will be more effective.
All of this, if we weren’t discussing caffeine, would make a substance appear miraculous. However, because we understand how coffee works, it becomes slightly less mystical. Just as the majority of people would not report to work without caffeine, we should not sleep through our workouts.