Pre-workout caffeine will do you good—even if you drink it every day.
It isn't news that having a little caffeine in your system can elevate your athletic performance. In fact, many people wouldn't dream of working out in the morning until after they've had their morning coffee. And by the time most people step on a bike or hit the yoga mat, regardless of the time of day, they're usually well-caffeinated and slightly alert.
After a while, though, caffeine users become more and more immune to its advantageous effects. For serious athletes, this can be a real problem. So, in order to maximize the benefits they receive from a cup of joe on the day of a big competition or other serious sporting event, coaches will often encourage them to abstain from the stuff for a week beforehand.
Now, a new study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology is questioning that practice, with researchers arguing instead that you can indeed drink coffee every day...and still benefit from it on the day of your most intense workout.
According to The New York Times, it was Bruno Gualano, a professor of physiology and nutrition at the University of São Paulo in Brazil and a recreational scientist, who believed it his duty to perform the study and get to the bottom of the caffeine abstention mystery once and for all. “As a good Brazilian, coffee is part of my diet,” he told the paper.
Together with his colleagues, 40 competitive male cyclists from São Paulo were recruited and invited to partake in a series of tests. First, riders were asked about their regular caffeine intake, and subsequently divided into a low-caffeine group, a moderate-caffeine group, and a high-caffeine group. The riders were then asked to return to the lab three times for timed athletic trials. Before the first trial, each was given a caffeine tablet. Before the second, they were given a lookalike placebo tablet made up of only gelatin and no caffeine. No tablets were given before the last ride.
The results? Without having to abstain from caffeine for days beforehand, all riders—whether they were light, moderate, or heavy caffeine drinkers—experienced the same benefits from it on the day of their trial. What's more, the riders completed their first trial 3.3 percent faster on average than they did when they were give no pill, and 2.2 percent faster than their placebo trial.
“No matter the habitual caffeine intake in the diet, acute caffeine supplementation can improve performance,” concluded Dr. Gualano, though he did remark that the study did not analyze the effects of caffeine abstention in women—nor did it address older or less phsyically fit men.