One of the drugs that keeps western society moving forward is caffeine. We have all been in the position where the afternoon in the office is a particular struggle that can only be helped with a red bull. Or perhaps the Monday ritual of a coffee stops us from committing a crime against a co-worker.
Whatever the case, caffeine in definitely an integral part of our society. However, unlike most things that we are addicted to these days, caffeine may not be bad for you. In fact, this little psychoactive chemical might be useful for our brain function, and for our bodies to be in great shape. Let’s look at The effects of caffeine on our brain, our fat loss and our muscle growth.
Effects on the brain
The studies done on brains under the influence of caffeine are very interesting. When someone drinks a cup of coffee, Dopamine is released. This is due to (science alert) the caffeine supressing a neurotransmitter called adenosine. This chemical usually is released into your brain, and when it gets to a terminal point, your brain tells you to go to bed. With caffeine blocking this chemical, your brain is fooled into thinking you have more energy to give. In fact, it is a similar effect to having a 20-minute power nap, which resets the levels of adenosine.
The results of this psychoactive intervention is a feeling of energy, focus and heightened attention. The recommended doses for an adult are less than 400 mg per day (around 4 cups of coffee). According to the site coffee and health:
1. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that a cause and effect relationship between improved alertness and attention and 75mg caffeine (the amount in a regular cup of coffee) had been established.
2. Caffeine can improve wakefulness in situations of reduced alertness or lack of sleep, for example; night-time driving, working at night, suffering from a cold and during the post-lunch dip.
3. In a sample of people under 40, a study found that caffeine or coffee may be effective in improving performance in those suffering from jet lag or shift work sleep disorder.
4. Some studies have shown that caffeine may enhance memory performance, particularly when tedious, repetitive tasks are involved. However, higher intake may decrease performance, possibly due to over-stimulation.
So all in all, as long as you don’t overdo it, the mental effects of caffeine are quite beneficial. A point to always bear in mind, is that continual exposure to high amounts of caffeine will dull the effects of it. So perhaps take a day or two off every now and then, or reduce your dosage. It will mean that in the long term you can reap the benefits of caffeine. So caffeine is pretty good for brain performance, but what about your body?
Effects on Fat loss
Look on the back of a tub of “fat burning” pills, and almost without exception the main ingredient is going to be caffeine. This is not going to be for no reason. But let us not put our trust in supplement companies, let’s look at the science.
Caffeine might influence lipolysis, which is essentially a breaking down of fat in the body. So this increased process along with potential thermogenic effects seem to have a direct effect on fat composition in the body. Thermogenesis is a process in your body that produces heat, and there is a correlation between the thermogenesis in your body, your metabolic rate, and ultimately how much fat you burn.
It would seem that with a combination of vigorous exercise (HIIT, weightlifting, sports etc) caffeine can help speed up the process of fat loss. This doesn’t mean that sitting down all day downing cups of coffee is going to turn you into the ripped beast you dream about, but used with a good diet and exercise program can help you enormously.
Effects On Gaining Muscle
Since almost everyone drinks coffee, and only a small percentage of the population walk around with impressive muscles, it is safe to assume that drinking coffee doesn’t have an effect on muscle growth. However, just like anything, we are looking for caffeine to supplement our existing regime and diet. So let’s look at some science.
We have discussed some of the effects that caffeine can have on the Central Nervous System, but these can be very impressive in the context of vigorous exercise. Stamina and endurance can be effected by caffeine. This is for two reasons. Firstly, your heart rate is increased under the influence of caffeine, add this to the increased mental energy you feel and the result is far more exertion during your training. This can carry on for the length of your training as the effects last for over an hour.
Secondly caffeine helps to recruit fat stores as opposed to glycogen for those long workouts. The glycogen that is spared at the beginning can be recruited later in the training. This means you can go for longer with more intensity. This is what will help build more muscle.
Another interesting study was done to see how the muscular pain was effected by caffeine during training sessions. Consistently the results showed that without caffeine, muscle soreness was felt at a much higher rate. Translation? If you can keep pushing through those pain barriers while training a muscle, then you will grow more. As Arnold used to say, “those last 3 or 4 reps are what makes the muscle grow”.
More tactical use of caffeine can be employed through the careful use of fat burners. These should be used sparingly, and not regular for long periods of time. So caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that not only has great value in the working world, but also in the world of fitness. So perhaps downing a cup of coffee, or a sugar free red bull can give you an added boost during your training session. You’ll be able to do more reps, run a little faster, and look better in the long run as a result.