Post workout coffee
on Oct 06, 2017
Post Exercise caffeine
It’s long been established that caffeine has a positive effect on athletic performance when taken before training; this article provides a full explanation of the hows and whys.
However, consuming caffeine after training has previously had a less glamorous light, and has even had negativity shown towards it (for a couple of unsupported reasons).
The theory went that consuming caffeine post training would lead to an increased stress response, meaning increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol during the post training ‘anabolic window’ which could cause the following:
- >Increased post training muscle breakdown and damage due to cortisol catabolic effect of muscle tissue
- >Increased insulin resistance, meaning less carbohydrate getting pushed into muscle tissue
- >The net effect would be less muscle gain and impaired recovery
Thanks to the first study of its kind (1) in 2004, we now know this information is incorrect. Here's why:
- >Post exercise hormone concentrations have little to no effect on long term protein synthesis; this means the circulating hormones found in the blood stream directly following intense exercise have little correlation with long term muscle gain (2). Even if caffeine did increase cortisol levels post training, this wouldn’t affect our ability to recover post training
- >Post training, the body is more efficient at restoring carbohydrate as glycogen due to an upregulation of a protein called Glut-4 which is increased as a result of muscular contraction. Glut 4 allows glucose (carbohydrate) to get inside a muscle cell without the need of insulin, which is typically required. Consequently the belief that caffeine would limit the muscles ability to up take carbohydrate following exercise is untrue, and as you'll read below, quite opposite to the original beliefs
What the research is now telling us about post exercise caffeine
What we now know is that following intense exercise, the ingestion of caffeine with carbohydrates post exercise actually speeds up the rate that the carbohydrate is converted to glycogen and stored within muscles. This was first tested in 2007, when scientists compared carbs against carbs and caffeine following an exercise protocol aimed to deplete the subjects calves of glycogen. The scientists found that the overall rate of resynthesize for the 4-h recovery period was 66% higher with carbs and caffeine group [compared with carbs alone] (3)..
This idea was supported with a later study that again compared caffeine and carbs (8mg per kg of bodyweight: aka a boat load of caffeine) with carbs alone, and reported that following an exercise protocol designed to deplete glycogen in the test subject, the inclusion of caffeine with carbohydrate allowed subjects to perform significantly better at an intermittent shuttle run test 4 hours later compared to when carbohydrates alone where consumed (4)
The above research provides an indication of why the inclusion of caffeine with carbs post exercise may be of use, but its application is what’s more important and there are a couple of specific situations where the inclusion of caffeine with carbs could cause real noticeable effects in performance.
Something important to consider: during typical once per day exercise of moderate volume with 24 hours between sessions, the need to maximise the rate at which glycogen post training is pretty much nil. Assuming enough total carbohydrates are consumed between sessions, the type and timing of carbohydrates is of secondary importance - just focus on getting enough (5)
However, this changes when the time between bouts of exercise is reduced, at which point the type and timing of carbohydrates and other strategies that would allow more carbohydrate to be restored in our muscles becomes more important. Three examples of this would be
- > Twice+ a day training sessions: It’s not uncommon, especially if following a competitors Crossfit programme to train more than once per day in order to fit in the volume required: Including caffeine with carbs after the first session may help maintain performance during the second session.
- > Following evening or night training, when a session is then going to be carried out first thing the following morning. A word of caution. Be aware if caffeine effects your sleep quality and quantity. There is no point in maximising glycogen resynthesize if you're then too tired the following day and your nervous system hasn’t recovered fully because of poor sleep
- > Comp days: When you're competing in multiple workouts over 1-2 days; time between events is limited; or you personally don’t feel comfortable eating large volumes of food. Then the inclusion of caffeine with a post event recovery snack / drink will help get more carbs into the muscles ready for the next event.
So the Extreme Bean you're drinking between events not only not acts as a pre event boost, it also helps recovery post event too.
Wrapping it up
Caffeine is being found to have more and more associated benefits with regards to performance. Post training glycogen storage is the latest in a long line of possible ways that caffeine may have a positive effect, when used in the right way. As always, application is key so having post training caffeine is just another tool in the tool box for when the need to speed up the rate of glycogen storage would be useful. If thinking about trying such strategies, trial it in training first to see if having too much caffeine (I.e. Pre and post training) has any adverse effects and get yourself a portable coffee device right away!
- Battram DS1, Shearer J, Robinson D, Graham TE. (2004) Caffeine ingestion does not impede the resynthesis of proglycogen and macroglycogen after prolonged exercise and carbohydrate supplementation in humans. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2004 Mar;96(3):943-50. Epub 2003 Nov 14.
- Mangine GT1, Hoffman JR, Gonzalez AM, Townsend JR, Wells AJ, Jajtner AR, Beyer KS, Boone CH, Wang R, Miramonti AA, LaMonica MB, Fukuda DH, Witta EL, Ratamess NA, Stout JR. (2017) Exercise-Induced Hormone Elevations Are Related to Muscle Growth. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Jan;31(1):45-53. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001491
- Pedersen DJ1, Lessard SJ, Coffey VG, Churchley EG, Wootton AM, Ng T, Watt MJ, Hawley JA. (2007) High rates of muscle glycogen resynthesis after exhaustive exercise when carbohydrate is coingested with caffeine. Appl Physiol (1985). 2008 Jul;105(1):7-13. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01121.2007
- Taylor C1, Higham D, Close GL, Morton JP (2011) The effect of adding caffeine to postexercise carbohydrate feeding on subsequent high-intensity interval-running capacity compared with carbohydrate alone. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2011 Oct;21(5):410-6. Epub 2011 Aug 10
- Kerksick CM1, Arent S2, Schoenfeld BJ3, Stout JR4, Campbell B5, Wilborn CD6, Taylor L6, Kalman D7, Smith-Ryan AE8, Kreider RB9, Willoughby D10, Arciero PJ11, VanDusseldorp TA12, Ormsbee MJ13,14, Wildman R15, Greenwood M9, Ziegenfuss TN16, Aragon AA17, Antonio J18. (2017) International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Aug 29;14:33. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4