How do you use Caffeine to boost your Performance?

A cup of coffee is the favourite way to kick start the day for a huge number of us, for some it’s just the taste, for others it’s become a necessity to get you through the day ahead but for many it’s now the go-to pre-workout beverage to boost endurance and performance.

The cup of Joe, however, has been steeped in a myriad of controversies, conflicting evidence and a huge amount of speculation.

So exactly how much is too much caffeine?

How does it actually affect performance?

And more importantly how can you use it effectively to see improvements in your sport, work and life?

Caffeine for performance

Numerous studies have been conducted over the years to test the world’s favourite drug. A meta-analysis of 250 studies showed that caffeine has the ability to enhance physical and mental performance in numerous ways. Here are some of the conclusions drawn by this meta-analysis.

  1. Caffeine is beneficial for endurance exercise with the positive effect lasting for several hours during the exercise.
  • Caffeine was shown to significantly boost physical performance when exercising in the heat and contrary to previous beliefs no evidence was found for the so-called “dehydrating” effect of caffeine or excessive loss of electrolytes.
  • Caffeine has a positive impact on strength and boosts both endurance and muscle strength training performance.
  • Caffeine is also known to increase your pain threshold for 24-4 8 hours post-exercise.

 

How does coffee boost performance?

The active ingredient in coffee is the natural stimulant, caffeine which is also found in tea, chocolate, and energy drinks.  It acts as a performance enhancer by blocking the adenosine receptors that are located all over the body and the brain that cause a slowdown of neural activity, making us drowsy. By blocking these receptors, caffeine makes us more focused and energetic.

The bad news for the coffee addicts out there is that there is a safe upper limit to your caffeine consumption and some pretty nasty side effects if you do go over this…

How much should you drink and when?

Although the amount of caffeine can vary depending on the strength of the blend, composition or brewing method, a cup of coffee on an average contains around 120 mg of caffeine. It is believed that up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is safe for most healthy adults, although I would recommend to aim for slightly less than that.

If you’re drinking more than four cups of coffee per day then this can amount to over 600 mg of caffeine which is a very high dose and probably means you’ll be experiencing headaches, insomnia, irritability, stomach upsets and possibly even an elevated heart rate and muscle tremors. None of these symptoms are normal! So if you think you have a bit of a caffeine addiction, tone it down, your body will really thank you for it.

My recommendation is “2 before 2” – no more than two cups of coffee that should be consumed before 2pm. I also suggest that you don’t start your day with a coffee. If you get in the habit of kick-starting your day with caffeine, not only do you tend to consume more throughout the day, but you also reduce your bodies sensitivity to caffeine, meaning that it becomes less effective as a stimulant.

How much is too much?

One of the biggest problems I see with excessive caffeine consumption is the impact it has on sleep and recovery. You may think that the double espresso at the end of your meal is just a nice way to end your evening, but your central nervous system certainly doesn’t.

Caffeine is a stimulant with a half-life of 3-5 hours, meaning that it will take this amount of time for your body to eliminate half of this drug, the remainder will take significantly longer.

Consuming caffeine later in the day makes it harder for you to fall asleep, reducing your total sleep time and also the amount of deep sleep that you can enjoy. Consuming caffeine even six hours before bedtime has shown to reduce total sleep time by up to an hour, hence, my 2 before 2 rule.

Sleep is vitally important for recovery, repair and physical and cognitive performance. Sleep deprivation has now become a world-wide problem – ironically managed by most people through further caffeine consumption!

 

My approach to caffeine consumption is very similar to the way I approach good nutrition.

If you want to succeed in sport, work and life, then you need to get yourself into a proactive state. If you often find yourself in a reactive state when it comes to nutrition, then I guarantee you’re setting yourself up for failure. Your body should be in control of the substances it allows in rather than giving in to cravings.

Most people fail with their fat loss goals because they simply don’t plan ahead with their nutrition, they eat on the go and because they are not in control they often need excess sugar to give them an energy boost but as soon as their blood sugar levels plummet they need another hit to get themselves going again. All day long they react in this way consuming the wrong foods, excess calories, and dealing with mood swings and low energy levels.

Caffeine consumption is the same. If you simply HAVE to down a cup of coffee before you can even consider starting your day, then you’ve got a problem and you need to gain back control.

Start the day the night before with a decent night’s sleep. Drink a pint of water first thing to re-hydrate your body and sit down and enjoy your mid-morning coffee rather than grabbing it on the go.

What to have with your coffee to optimise performance?

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you’ll know that I’m a big fan of black coffee with MCT oil to maximize the performance benefits of caffeine. Black coffee is a powerhouse of antioxidants including polyphenols, hydrocinnamic acid, cafestol, and trigonelline. These are compounds that protect the body cells against free radical damage that result in chronic illnesses.

MCT or medium chain triglycerides are a type of fatty acids naturally present in coconut oils.  These triglycerides are quickly absorbed in the body as compared to other types of fats making MCT an instant source of healthy energy.

MCT is known to promote fat burning and boosts your metabolic rate while having a positive effect on endurance and performance. Adding MCT to black coffee ensures sustained energy release over four to five hours as against the quick spike from caffeine in water.

I’m a big fan of a lunchtime workout and so I enjoy my Can Do Brew late morning and feel like I’m firing on all cylinders come lunchtime! We’ve found a great coffee supplier in underdog coffee and our clients and my team are reaping the benefits!

 


The Top Five Ways to Boost Your Workout

With so much information out there on how to train, when to train, what to do and what not to do, it’s easy to get a bit lost on the gym floor and just decide that it all seems too much like hard work!

We all go through periods of high and low energy and whilst it’s a lot easier to be motivated during the summer months, this tends to drop off significantly for a number of people as the festive season approaches…

If your training has hit a bit of a plateau or you just seem to be lacking the motivation to even get to the gym at the moment then try my top five simple ways to boost your workouts over the next few weeks…

At my studios in North London we always take a client through a consultation phase, not only to allow them to decide if working with my team is right for them but also to determine if they are a good fit for us. We often base this around the following criteria:

 

  1. Know why you are there.

It may sound a bit strange but if you don’t know why you’ve even set foot on the gym floor then how are you going to achieve any results?

If you’re planning on driving to somewhere you’ve never been before then it’s obvious that you need to put the postcode into your Sat Nav. It’s exactly the same process in the gym. Many people fail to get any real results in the gym because they simply don’t know where they are going.

If you want to get the most out of your workout then first off you want to know exactly what you want to achieve. You need to stop wandering aimlessly and get really clear on your goals, if it’s a fat loss goal then determine exactly what success looks like.

If it’s a physique goal then be clear on how you want to change your body and what this will look like. If it’s a fitness challenge then be clear on when you will be competing and the milestones you need to hit week by week to get there

In each case you should either consult with an expert trainer or do your research online to find a programme that you can follow each week that will direct you to your desired goal.

  1. Learn to lift properly

Whatever your age, ability or training goal, in my opinion, every training programme should incorporate some form of lifting. Learning to lift properly will change your body shape, improve your posture, it will help to remove aches and pains, allow you to move better, get you stronger, more confident and generally improve your life!

You want to drop body fat? Lift weights, it will turbo charge your metabolism, strip away fat and drastically change your body shape.

Want to run a marathon? Learn to squat and deadlift to build strong and stable glutes, hamstrings and core muscles that will make your running easier, more enjoyable and pain free.

Want to build a great physique that looks good and moves well? Step away from the resistance machines and learn to squat, press, row and deadlift with free weights.

Whatever stage you may be at with your training, your goal should always be to continually learn and improve. Performing the same few movements over and over again won’t benefit anyone. Training is all about challenging your body to change. So find new and innovative ideas and movements that will challenge your body and mind and give a huge boost to your training sessions.

  1. Switch off your phone

Can you imagine it? A whole hour without being able to check social media?!

If you really want to boost your workout then you need to switch off from the outside world and spend that time just working on you. If you think you have to have your phone on you at all times so that you can always be contacted, let me give you some tough love – you’re really not that important!

Even world leaders are allowed some down time, so switch off, or at least switch to flight mode.

One hour without contact with the outside world is not going to change anything – but it will have a profound effect on your training intensity and also allow you to really be present in your training session

 

What about the gym selfie I hear you cry?! I challenge you to make your gym time a sacred time for you. Switch off, be clear on what you want to achieve, avoid distractions and enjoy doing something for you rather than doing it to seek the approval of others.

  1. Train at the same time each week

I get it you’re busy. You need to work late some nights, you’ve got family commitments, social commitments, and the list goes on.

But what about a commitment to yourself? Isn’t it funny how we always find the time for the things that really matter and find excuses for those that don’t?

If you really want to make a change to your body then you kind of have to turn up each week! If work life is unpredictable then train early in the morning before your workday begins. If you schedule it, you’ll do it. If you leave room for life to get in your way then I guarantee it will.

  1. Get yourself a training buddy

Probably the biggest way for boosting your training is to find yourself a training buddy (or even your own trainer). A lot of the time we’ll easily quit on ourselves but the thought of letting someone else down usually keeps us in the game for longer. You need to find the right person for this challenge so before you rush into calling your doughnut loving, selfie obsessed, slightly flaky friend,

Workout partnersI’d recommend you follow these three critical rules:

  • Find someone who is organised. You need a training partner that will be strict with you, strict with your programme, turn up on time and not let you down.
  • Find someone who is currently fitter than you. If you want to reach a new level then you need to be punching above your weight!
  • Find someone that you actually like. Your training partner definitely needs to be in good shape and reliable but if you don’t enjoy spending time with them then the thought of committing hours of one on one time each week to them isn’t going to float your boat!

 

So there you have it, five simple ways to drastically boost your training immediately if you have any other suggestions of your own leave them in the comments section below.

 

David Osgathorp