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Exercise has a long list of health benefits, and everyone wants to get the most out of their workout routine. The ideal scenario is one where you can boost your workout productivity so you can see the biggest results with the least amount of time and effort spent.
While a lot of workout advice focuses on how to recover after exercise, workout productivity is often a result of what happens before you hit the gym. And that’s where some caffeine can make the difference.
When consumed about 45 minutes before working out, natural caffeine is the secret sauce of maximizing your athletic performance. Here are 6 ways caffeine can give your workout a boost…
One of the main benefits you will notice right away with caffeine before exercise is that it will improve your performance. One study published in Sports Medicine, for example, concluded that caffeine is a powerful ergogenic aid—in other words, caffeine improves exercise performance (1).
The study specifically noted that caffeine can allow athletes to train with more power and for longer durations without getting fatigued. Another study echoed the ergogenic effects of caffeine with improved results in cyclists (2).
If you exercise to get lean and trim down, research suggests that caffeine can help expedite your goals by stimulating fat loss. Taking caffeine before exercise can help you burn more calories.
One study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, found that athletes who took caffeine before exercise burned around 15% more calories following a workout compared to those who didn’t supplement with caffeine (3).
Pre-workout caffeine can also encourage your body to use fat cells as a source of energy. It accomplishes this by stimulating your nervous system to release norepinephrine (4). In turn, the spike in norepinephrine encourages the breakdown of fat cells.
Read More: 5 Steps to a Lean, Toned Tummy
Research suggests that caffeine can also improve your circulation. One team of Japanese researchers discovered that drinking a cup of caffeinated coffee improved capillary circulation by 30 percent (5).
So how does this help your workouts? When you have better circulation, your tissues have more oxygen and other essential nutrients. As a result, your muscles will have a higher level of performance throughout a workout.
Your muscles use a compound called glycogen for energy. The more you exert yourself during a workout, the more glycogen you use. The problem is, your body doesn’t have an unlimited supply of glycogen.
When you use up all your glycogen, your muscles become fatigued and weak. Research has found that caffeine combined with carbohydrates can improve how much glycogen is resupplied to your muscles after a workout (6).
This means your muscles will have significantly more energy the next time you exercise. So, you can work out several days in a row without muscle fatigue getting in the way.
Sometimes having the motivation to drag yourself to the gym or out for a walk is the biggest challenge of them all. Especially when you’re exhausted or not in the right mood. This is where caffeine shines.
A large body of evidence shows that caffeine can boost your energy and alertness, giving you the nudge you need to get moving (7).
Had a bad day at work? Bored of your current workout routine? Supplementing with natural caffeine sources such as green tea or coffee before your workout can make all the difference.
There’s also evidence that taking adaptogenic herbs like rhodiola rosea can provide an extra boost of motivation.
As you age, you lose muscle mass much easier. It’s an unfortunate biological fact. The good news is, caffeine in addition to exercise can help preserve your muscle tissues from degrading.
When you consume caffeine, it triggers the release of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF (8). Among many other tasks, BDNF is shown to play a role in muscle regeneration (9). Which means caffeine may help prevent muscle loss.
Observational evidence supports this notion as well. One study in Korea, for example, found that people who consistently drank coffee experienced considerably less muscle loss (sarcopenia) (10).
Not all sources of caffeine are created equal. Sure, gulping down an energy drink may give you a temporary surge in energy, but energy drinks are horrible for your health otherwise.
Energy drinks and sodas are not only loaded with sugar and other toxic ingredients, they are spiked with synthetic caffeine that is made in Chinese factories, and may only sabotage your performance in the long run.
So, what are healthy sources of caffeine? Green tea tops the list as not only does it provide natural caffeine, it comes with beneficial catechins including EGCG, which supports fat burning.
Regular coffee also works, with anywhere between 70 to 180mg of natural caffeine per cup depending on the brew and brand (11). Make sure to opt for organic blends as both conventional tea and coffee are heavily sprayed with toxic pesticides.
Another good option is to pick an organic supplement with natural caffeine botanicals, including green tea and green coffee extract. Green coffee is preferred since it also provides chlorogenic acid, which has antioxidant properties and supports healthy metabolism (12).