Your brain is not the only part of you which appreciates a caffeine pick me up. You’ve sweated up a storm in the gym or cycled like a mad-man up a mountain – you’re muscles are feeling flat.
Want to put the zing back in them, quick quick ?
Down a MEGA size cup of coffee or two.
Exercise lets the glycogen out
A session of strenuous exercise, depletes the muscles of their personal stash of food, known as glycogen.
Restoring the supply, makes the muscle feel happy and good to go for another round or two. Restoring it quickly is the objective of many a sports nut. Personally not convinced speed of restoration is really that critical, but then I do restrict myself to exercising no more than once a day ! And sometimes find scheduling the one session a little problematic.
Standard advise – eat something with a supply of “sugar”. As the blood level rises, the spare glucose will be directed towards the “deprived” muscles. The muscles will be able to reach into the cookie jar and stock up.
Add a caffeine pick me up
Research from Australia suggests a mega dose of caffeine, will give the muscles a boost, allowing them to top up a lot quicker.
The team found athletes adding a “coffee” to their post workout ritual, ended up with 66 % more glycogen in their muscles four hours after finishing their workout.
Measuring caffeine power
The researchers put 7 muscle machines aka. elite atheletes, through their paces.
The glycogen levels were depleted with a stint of vigorous exercise, to the point of exhaustion, on the evening of day 1. Dinner was included in the study, but it was a low carb affair.
Bright eyed and “hungry”, the muscle machines checked in for round 2 the next day. Another BIG workout spinning on the bikes, but this time they got a post-exercise top up in the form of a “drink”.
The drink was either “sugar” or “sugar” + caffeine. Got different drinks on different days.
The athletes hung around the lab for a few hours, during which time they were poked and prodded a little, to get a picture of what was happening inside their bodies.
Caffeine gave a glucose and insulin lift
An hour after the workout there was no real difference between the two groups muscle glycogen levels. At four hours, the caffeine had worked a little magic. Muscles had 66 % more glycogen.
Both glucose and insulin levels were higher during the 4 hour period when caffeine was drunk post workout – this must have contributed to the muscles speedy stock up.
Unfortunately, the doses of caffeine used in the study were a bit on the high side. Who we kidding, they were outrageous. 8 mg/kg which translates to approx 5 cups of coffee (in one sitting). Suspect the muscles were not the only parts of the body “swinging”.
Caffeine the recipe for muscle “achievement” ?
When your muscles are in the groove and moving, they are energy junkies. Sedentary muscles are not big energy users i.e. you really don’t have to worry about “feeding” them extra tit bits. But if you want to make your hard working muscles happy, you have to keep them supplied with fuel throughout their workout. Any hick ups in the supply and you hit “the wall”, so to speak.
Before starting out of the blocks – swigging down a little caffeine, can give an energy boost. This little move will speed up the transition from burning low octane fuel (glycogen) to the high octane fuel (fat). So if you’re participating in a little endurance activity – go ahead, knock a coffee back.
The energy benefits of caffeine, probably extend beyond the start-up of the workout, to the wrap up too, so your cup of coffee could keep on giving. Just keep an eye on the clock – caffeine is typically out of your system within a few hours.
But a post workout caffeine binge is not recommended. Although a cafe latte i.e. caffeine with milk, would be pretty nice.
Sleep is key to good performance
Too much caffeine can hold up entering dreamland and sleep ranks as one of the top performance enhancers. The benefit of replenishing glycogen really quick quick, following a workout, is unlikely to out way the hazards of being wired and swinging from the ceiling for hours post workout. Sleep
Too much of a good thing, is not such a good thing. Just ask santa.
Remember – good body chemistry is about
- The right dose
- At the right time
- In the right place
If you want to improve muscle chemistry after a workout – try a post workout rub down.High rates of muscle glycogen resynthesis after exhaustive exercise when carbohydrate is co-ingested with caffeine. Journal of Applied Physiology (2008) David J. Pedersen, Sarah J. Lessard, Vernon G. Coffey, Emmanuel G. Churchley, Andrew M. Wootton, They Ng, Matthew J. Watt, and John A. Hawley
Interested in learning more about the chemistry of peak performance ?
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