Ergogenics: Caffeine – Part One

beansProviding nothing else gets in the way, I am declaring this week caffeine week in a fitting tribute to the drug behind America’s national beverage. I’ll save you all the history and pharmacology of caffeine as it’s widely known. Instead I’ll get straight to the study that is the center of this update.

The study, published in the latest journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, was a joint effort by researchers from California State University and San Diego State University. The researchers wanted to investigate the effect two different doses of caffeine had on performance. The two doses they looked at were 2mg/kg and 5mg/kg, or to put it another way, for a 200lb man a 180mg dose or a 450mg dose. The first thing you’ll likely note is that there is a pretty large discrepancy between doses. Most caffeine supplements come in 50mg (like ProPlus), 100mg or 200mg serving sizes. The supplement “industry standard” for caffeine when it comes to fat burners is typically 200mg per serving, but some newer products are really starting to push the boundary higher.

Back to the study – The researchers recruited fifteen men for the experiment. Their average weight was about 180lbs, so the specific doses used for the study are about 165mg to 415mg. The performance they measured was using something they call a isokinetic dynamometer but that me and you would be more familiar with calling a leg extension. They abstained from caffeine for two days prior to the performance so to not conflict the results. Doing two sets of forty reps (talk about a burnout set!) as a baseline, the participants returned two days later to do the same workout, once again abstaining from caffeine during this time. While the researchers noted no change in those using the lower dose, those using the higher dose noted improvement in power to the tune of 5-8%.

So what dose this mean for the use of caffeine pre-workout? I think it is great, not only for the ergogenic affect it elicits but for the psychoactive affects it gives. There are tons of studies showing caffeine to be excellent for of these effects going back decades. As for the dose to use, unless you have a high caffeine tolerance already, I’d advise against jumping straight into a 5mg/kg dose. For most bodybuilders this is going to be a 400-600mg acute dose which can make you incredibly uncomfortable and will likely ruin your workout. I’ll avoid mentioning a potential hospital visit, but I do know of a person online that took a straight gram and thought he was going to die. The best course of advice is to start with a 200mg dose 30-45 minutes pre-workout and increase dose when and as you see fit.

Source: Astorino TA, Terzi MN, Roberson DW, Burnett TR. Effect of Two Doses of Caffeine on Muscular Function during Isokinetic Exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Apr 22.

About the Author

Matt Cahill has worked extensively in the nutritional supplement field, and is the former CEO of Designer Supplements. During his time in the field has researched and developed prohormones, testosterone boosters, and other related compounds, both for his own company and others.