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CaffeineLove Affair with Caffeine
Jose Antonio, Ph.D., CSCS, FACSM
The Ubiquitous Pick Me Up!
We love caffeine ‘cause it gives your brain a kick start! Let’s face it. You could be
moving slower than a fat chick on Xanax, but with a little help from your
trimethylxanthine friend (i.e. caffeine), you’ll have more energy than Paris Hilton’s
videographer. Here’s the proof!
One study examined one hundred and forty-four volunteers (72 male, 72 female, mean
age 21 years) and had them consume breakfast (cereal versus no breakfast) and caffeine
(caffeinated versus decaffeinated coffee). They found that those who consumed breakfast
cereal had a more positive mood at the start of the test sessions, performed better on a
spatial memory task, and felt calmer at the end of the test session than those in the no
breakfast condition (lesson: don’t skip breakfast☺). Consuming caffeine improved the
“encoding of new information and counteracted the fatigue that developed over the test
session.”(1) Blah blah blah…translation: that means your brain works better. Bottom
line: drink coffee as you eat that delicious bowl of oatmeal (or is it Captain Crunch you
Perhaps one of the more idiotic things I’ve ever heard about caffeine is that it helps you
gain fat! Listen up now. If anybody (i.e. your trainer, strength coach, nutritionist,
boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, or any of the above) says that, than I’d suggest you put on
your Nikes and run faster than a cheetah on amphetamines. Why? Because anyone who
says that is a moron. Anyhow, here’s some data (i.e. evidence) for you. (Please see side
bar on ‘Functional Coffee for Weight Loss’ too).
Scientists studied 18,417 men and 39,740 women from 1986 to 1998. Caffeine intake was
assessed repeatedly every 2-4 years. Weight change was calculated as the difference
between the self-reported weight in 1986 and in 1998. What did these self-professed
science nerds discover? “Age-adjusted models showed a lower mean weight gain in
participants who increased their caffeine consumption than in those who decreased their
consumption…” In English, that means those who consumed the most caffeine, gained
the least amount of weight. That is, an increase in coffee and tea consumption was also
associated with less weight gain.(2)
Yes, caffeine can ratchet up your body’s furnace such that you burn more calories.(3-11)
And the cool part is that you oxidize or burn more fat in the process. An oft-used
technique by fitness competitors is to down a strong cup-a-Joe or a caffeine pill prior to
exercise. You’ll exercise harder, longer, and burn more fat in the process. What about
consuming caffeine at rest?
A recent study looked at energy expenditure, fat oxidation or burning, and norepinephrine
(NE) kinetics (i.e. how ‘adrenaline’ like hormones are metabolized) after caffeine or
placebo ingestion using placebo-controlled double-blind conditions. The dose
administered was 5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of fat-free mass (note: fat-free mass or
FFM is mainly muscle and bone). Translation: For the young men, they consumed about
350 mg while the old men consumed about 295 mg. (Therefore, the young men had more
FFM than the old men).
They studied 10 older (65-80 yr) and 10 younger (19-26 yr) men who were moderate
consumers of caffeine. Caffeine ingestion resulted in similar increases in both the old and
young men for plasma caffeine levels; thus both young and old absorb caffeine equally
well. Metabolic rate or energy expenditure increased similarly by 11% in young and
9.5% in the older men. According to the scientists, “older and younger men show a
similar thermogenic response to caffeine ingestion.” (6) Bottom line: young and old can
benefit from the thermogenic effect of caffeine.
Known to fitness enthusiasts as well as Olympians, caffeine is the most versatile and
effective ergogenic aid (i.e. something that enhances exercise performance).(12-32) A
prominent exercise physiologist, David Costill, Ph.D., performed the ground-breaking
study on caffeine and exercise 26 years ago! He took nine competitive cyclists (two
females and seven males) and had them bike until exhaustion at 80% of V02 max.
(Note: V02 max, also known as maximal oxygen uptake, is a measure of how well your
cardiopulmonary system functions).
Each subject consumed coffee containing 330 mg of caffeine 60 min before the exercise
or a placebo (decaffeinated coffee). Following the ingestion of caffeine, the subjects
were able to perform an average of 90 minutes of cycling as compared to an average of
76 minutes in the placebo trial. This reflects an 18% increase! They also found that
subjects burned more fat (aka lipolysis) as shown by measurements of plasma free fatty
acids, glycerol and respiratory exchange ratios. In fact, fat oxidation or burning was
significantly higher (107% greater) during the caffeine trial (118 g or 1.31 g/min) than in
the placebo trial (57 g or 0.75 g/min). Also, the perception of effort was much less in
subjects after consuming subjects indicating that exercise felt easier.(32)
Don’t be fooled by the nonsense about caffeine being bad for your health. It is so far
from reality that you need the Hubble telescope to see even a kernel of truth in it.
Caffeine not only works, it’s one of the safest ingredients in existence. For instance, one
study concluded that caffeine consumption is “not associated with adverse effects such as
general toxicity, cardiovascular effects, effects on bone status and calcium balance (with
consumption of adequate calcium), changes in adult behaviour, increased incidence of
cancer and effects on male fertility.”(33) And a study published in May of 2006 found
that no evidence that coffee consumption increases the risk of heart disease.(34)
Take home message:
Caffeine helps you burn fat.
Caffeine helps you lose weight or alleviate weight gain.
Caffeine improves athletic performance.
Caffeine improves brain function.
Stuff You Should Read But Probably Won’t
A. P. Smith, R. Clark, J. Gallagher, Physiol Behav 67, 9-17 (Aug 1, 1999). E. Lopez-Garcia et al., Am J Clin Nutr 83, 674-80 (Mar, 2006). K. J. Acheson et al., Am J Clin Nutr 79, 40-6 (Jan, 2004). S. Ryu et al., J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo) 47, 139-46 (Apr, 2001). P. J. Arciero, C. L. Bougopoulos, B. C. Nindl, N. L. Benowitz, Metabolism 49, P. J. Arciero, A. W. Gardner, J. Calles-Escandon, N. L. Benowitz, E. T. Poehlman, Am J Physiol 268, E1192-8 (Jun, 1995). 7. Y. Zhang, J. N. Wells, J Pharmacol Exp Ther 254, 757-63 (Sep, 1990). R. K. Hetzler, R. G. Knowlton, S. M. Somani, D. D. Brown, R. M. Perkins, 3rd, J A. Astrup et al., Am J Clin Nutr 51, 759-67 (May, 1990). A. G. Dulloo, C. A. Geissler, T. Horton, A. Collins, D. S. Miller, Am J Clin Nutr E. T. Poehlman et al., Med Sci Sports Exerc 17, 689-94 (Dec, 1985). L. J. Birnbaum, J. D. Herbst, J Strength Cond Res 18, 463-5 (Aug, 2004). D. G. Bell, T. M. McLellan, Med Sci Sports Exerc 35, 1348-54 (Aug, 2003). M. M. Stine, R. J. O'Connor, B. R. Yatko, N. E. Grunberg, L. C. Klein, Hum Psychopharmacol 17, 361-7 (Oct, 2002). 15. A. M. Hunter, A. St Clair Gibson, M. Collins, M. Lambert, T. D. Noakes, Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 12, 438-52 (Dec, 2002). 16. D. G. Bell, T. M. McLellan, J Appl Physiol 93, 1227-34 (Oct, 2002). L. E. Armstrong, Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 12, 189-206 (Jun, 2002). K. J. Cole et al., Int J Sport Nutr 6, 14-23 (Mar, 1996). L. L. Spriet, Int J Sport Nutr 5 Suppl, S84-99 (Jun, 1995). T. E. Graham, L. L. Spriet, J Appl Physiol 78, 867-74 (Mar, 1995). A. Chesley, E. Hultman, L. L. Spriet, Am J Physiol 268, E127-34 (Jan, 1995). M. H. Van Soeren, P. Sathasivam, L. L. Spriet, T. E. Graham, J Appl Physiol 75, M. I. Lindinger, T. E. Graham, L. L. Spriet, J Appl Physiol 74, 1149-55 (Mar, L. L. Spriet et al., Am J Physiol 262, E891-8 (Jun, 1992). K. Collomp, S. Ahmaidi, J. C. Chatard, M. Audran, C. Prefaut, Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 64, 377-80 (1992). 26. F. Anselme, K. Collomp, B. Mercier, S. Ahmaidi, C. Prefaut, Eur J Appl Physiol K. Collomp, S. Ahmaidi, M. Audran, J. L. Chanal, C. Prefaut, Int J Sports Med K. Collomp et al., Eur J Clin Pharmacol 40, 279-82 (1991). M. A. Erickson, R. J. Schwarzkopf, R. D. McKenzie, Med Sci Sports Exerc 19, V. Nassar-Gentina, J. V. Passonneau, S. I. Rapoport, Am J Physiol 241, C160-6 J. L. Ivy, D. L. Costill, W. J. Fink, R. W. Lower, Med Sci Sports 11, 6-11 (Spring, D. L. Costill, G. P. Dalsky, W. J. Fink, Med Sci Sports 10, 155-8 (Fall, 1978). P. Nawrot et al., Food Addit Contam 20, 1-30 (Jan, 2003). E. Lopez-Garcia et al., Circulation 113, 2045-53 (May 2, 2006).
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