Caffeine Benefits and Risks
This why coffee is so popular (I’m drinking a cup now), in fact caffeine has found its way in to more than just an espresso.
Caffeine is now in energy drinks, dessert like iced coffee’s, chocolate, soft drinks, nootropic supplements and even fat burner supplements.
Caffeine is such a hot topic that even the U.S Army has released a study to illustrate what the best dosing strategy is for maximum benefit. 
So, just how effective is caffeine to help increase energy and focus?
Caffeine and Physical Performance
Caffeine has been under scrutiny since the 1970’s to see what its effects are on exercise and sports.
As a result there are plenty of studies telling us of the benefits of caffeine, in fact here is a quite from a published article by a research team from one of the UK’s leading universities in sports research.
Caffeine in a performance bar can significantly improve endurance performance and complex cognitive ability during and after exercise.
Because of the aforementioned actions of increasing of catecholamine signalling (adrenaline and dopamine) caffeine not only makes us feel good but improve focus for cognitive function.
So that is how caffeine works on your body, in a very simplified and concise summary.
But how do we benefit from caffeine?
There’s five areas of note, some of which we have already mentioned:
- Improved physical performance
- Cognitive enhancement
- Fat burning
- Increases recovery
As study involving cyclists to measure their power output concluded that after dosing 5mg per kilogram of body weight their average power output was increased significantly. 
To mix it up a bit l will include research regarding resistance training. Weight lifting to you and me.
The aim was to establish how caffeine could affect strength performance and muscle pain of 11 individuals who were familiar with weight training.
This study concluded that the participants hit higher reps to failure on numerous compound exercises after ingesting caffeine than without.
In addition, when the participants had consumed caffeine their pain perception was significantly lower than when they used a placebo. 
Another study examined the performance of male and female volleyball players.
The results showed that those who took caffeine demonstrated that physical performance (including agility and jump tests) and accuracy was better than the placebo group. 
In another study, evidence demonstrated that a combination of aerobic exercise and caffeine significantly reduced fat cell size compared to when caffeine was not ingested prior to training sessions. 
Caffeine to Reduce Muscle Soreness
It seems to be common knowledge that caffeine can improve physical performance, and we have used different studies to reassert that theory in this article.
However, using caffeine in order to reduce muscle soreness, in particular delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
I read through a number of studies that have taken place to understand exactly if caffeine can have a positive effect not just during performance but afterwards, too.
One particular research paper struck a chord with me which involved 9 men performing bicep curls on a preacher bench.
The results showed that caffeine ingestion significantly reduced levels of muscle soreness up to three days after exercise. 
It also increased the number of repetitions of bicep curls performed.
This benefits trainees threefold:
- Increase repetitions
- Reduce soreness
- Reduce number of days recovery, therefore increase training frequency
What has the military have to do with caffeine?
The British Army have always found an opportunity drink a cup of tea, regardless of the situation or battle going on around them. The tanks even feature a kettle for a ‘brew up’.
In fact, during my training, emphasis is placed on ensuring that while you are living in the field, the initial part of your morning routine is to get hot water boiling for your breakfast and a drink of tea or coffee.
Anyone who rejects that idea is strongly persuaded otherwise…
But, not only is this to warm your body up and improve morale, it serves a very important function.
During initial training, there’s periods of days whereby sleep is extremely limited and you are out on patrol under simulated exercises.
A study discovered that caffeine has a positive effect on markmanship during military training whereby the soldiers are under a high level of stress coupled with low amounts of sleep.
Caffeine supplementation meant that soldiers were able to aim and pull the trigger quicker than those who had no caffeine administered. 
Caffeine Side Effects
Caffeine can hold you liable to two forms of risk:
- Legal (sort of)
Okay, taking caffeine is not illegal. We would all be in jail if so and Starbucks would be El Chapo.
However, if you play sports competitively you need to know the rules.
Caffeine when its concentration is greater than 10mcg per ml of urine is prohibited according to the World Anti-Doping Agency. 
This equates to around 5-6 cups of coffee.
While caffeine tolerance dosing is still unclear, it is understood that a dose of 250mg is about optimal.
Doses over 600mg per day can lead to caffeine toxicity.
This can result in anxiety, tremors and result in your heart beating at over 100bpm at rest.
Acute toxicity which can result in death is considered to be around 10g or caffeine per day. 
The majority of caffeine related deaths have been a result of mixing high doses of caffeine with drugs and/or alcohol.
In one case this has included alcohol and nicotine. 
It is also worth noting that caffeine is a diuretic. This means it helps you pass more urine.
If you are in a hot climate or doing high intensity exercise always remember to re-hydrate.
To Recap…Caffeine’s Effects
The numerous studies from as early as the 1970’s have established that caffeine has multiple benefits.
Both physical and mental.
It is widely understood that caffeine is able to improve alertness while suffering from sleep loss and deprivation. 
Caffeine is able to improve physical exercise performance. It has been noted that it can improve the physical performance of athletes in multiple sports.
Caffeine has also been proven to improve alertness plus motor control. Including accuracy, executive function and attention.
It should also be mentioned that there appear to be positive benefits to help reduce and prevent the symptoms of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Furthermore Caffeine can improve fat burning by storing glycogen and the utilisation fat for energy.
The additional benefits of caffeine also extend to reducing muscle soreness while being able to help increase muscular performance.
All of these benefits comes with minimal risk. It seems there is no requirement to exceed a dose of 250mg of caffeine which falls well beneath the amount that would trigger caffeine toxicity.
Any deaths appear to be the result of a combination of alcohol and other drugs.
In sort caffeine can help you perform to a higher levels on various platforms, no more is this apparent than what has been recorded in clinical trials with U.S Navy SEALS.
Their reports state that an optimal dose of 200mg of caffeine can provide an advantage when the person is under severe stress and require enhanced cognitive function. 
You may be surprised by which food sources contain caffeine.
Even the products which as ‘de-caffeinated’ contain caffeine, just at a lower level.
There’s the obvious choices such as coffee, or now the high influx of energy drinks but foods also contain caffeine.
Let’s take a look.
Caffeine in Foods
So, while not quite as obvious, some foods contain caffeine:
Protein bars can contain caffeine and so can energy bars.
Chocolate is a source of protein, so anything that contains chocolate such as cereal, ice cream, puddings and even cookies can be giving you a caffeine hit.
Even some chewing gum contains caffeine.
Caffeine in Drinks
This is where most people associate caffeine. That morning brew.
Yet, your coffee is probably going to offer the lowest hit of your day. Some beverages offer over 300mg of caffeine compared to around 80mg for a cup of coffee.
Whereas a cup of ‘relaxing’ tea can contain as much caffeine as a shot of espresso.
So, let’s look at the biggest caffeinated drinks culprits:
Energy drinks such as NOS Energy. Green Tea, breakfast tea and coffee, including iced coffee’s.
Soft drinks and soda such as cola and also ‘energy’ juices including smoothies and even bottled water.
The problem with many of these drinks and foods is that it is quite difficult to establish the level of caffeine which is included, or to even realise they include caffeine at all.
Then there’s some medicines such as headache or cold relief that also contain caffeine.
Caffeine in Supplements
Many supplements include caffeine due to the high benefits and low risk.
So, if you do not fancy 4 espresso’s in a row but want a high dose of caffeine for maximum benefit try a supplement.
These can be in water soluble powder form or capsule. Each one has it’s own benefit.
If you want a large, sudden hit of caffeine before a training session you can find that a pre workout supplement can be beneficial.
A supplement such as 4GAUGE will offer a very quick hit of 150mg of caffeine per serving helping you get through your gym session while increasing performance and aiding recovery.
With the benefits of caffeine for weight loss, there are many dietary supplements available that include caffeine such as fat burners that offer a more gradual release through the use of capsules or pills.
 The acute effect of a caffeine-containing energy drink on mood state, readiness to invest effort, and resistance exercise to failure. Duncan MJ, Smith M, Cook K, James RS. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Oct;26(10):2858-65.
 Eskelinen M.H., Ngandu T., Tuomilehto J., Soininen H., Kivipelto M. Midlife coffee and tea drinking and the risk of late-life dementia: a population-based CAIDE study. J. Alzheimers Dis. 2009;16(1):85–91. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2009-0920.
 Caffeine as an attention enhancer: reviewing existing assumptions. Einöther SJ, Giesbrecht T. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 Jan;225(2):251-74. doi: 10.1007/s00213-012-2917-4. Epub 2012 Dec 16. Review.
 The effect of caffeine ingestion on delayed onset muscle soreness. Hurley CF, Hatfield DL, Riebe DA. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Nov;27(11):3101-9. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182a99477.
 Caffeine effects on marksmanship during high-stress military training with 72 hour sleep deprivation. Tharion WJ, Shukitt-Hale B, Lieberman HR. Aviat Space Environ Med. 2003 Apr;74(4):309-14. PMID: 12688447
 Bonsignore A., Sblano S., Pozzi F., Ventura F., Dell’Erba A., Palmiere C. A case of suicide by ingestion of caffeine. Forensic Sci. Med. Pathol. 2014;10(3):448–451. doi: 10.1007/s12024-014-9571-6.
 Effects of caffeine, sleep loss, and stress on cognitive performance and mood during U.S. Navy SEAL training. Sea-Air-Land. Lieberman HR, Tharion WJ, Shukitt-Hale B, Speckman KL, Tulley R. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2002 Nov;164(3):250-61. Epub 2002 Sep 5. PMID: 12424548
Ben established this site to be a free resource in 2015. Since then it has gained over half a million visits. It explores the many avenues of fitness and uses supporting scientific evidence for any reviews or analysis of products.
Ben himself has been interested in fitness from an early age. He started playing rugby at the age of 6 for his town, county and school where he gained his full colors while also being in the Army Cadets. After graduating from university in 2005 with a BA(Hons) Ben moved to London and nurtured his love for weightlifting to support his rugby, he also became heavily involved with cycling. Ben also started skiing and recently joined the Army Reserve to further develop his capabilities.