Multiple studies have shown that caffeine is indeed useful as a bodybuilding supplement, but only if taken in the proper form, dosage and at the right time. Not only does it help athletes workout longer in the gym, but it also increases alertness, sharpens focus, improves mood, boosts pain tolerance and helps burn fat. And it works. In in a recent study, weightlifters improved their performance on average by 9.5%; over 75% of elite athletes polled were using it in some form.
How to Take Caffeine
The bad news is your morning cup of joe isn’t the best way to get your caffeine. Research shows for caffeine to be the most effective, it has to be taken once a day in pill form one hour before a workout. Caffeine maximizes in your bloodstream from 60 to 90 minutes after taking it.
Because caffeine can interfere with sleep, your workout should be in the morning or far enough in advance so the caffeine is out of your body by the time you go to bed. However, it is worth noting that half of the caffeine is still present in your system six hours after taking it.
Because your body can build up a tolerance to caffeine, do not take caffeine pills on non-workout days or for a week before participating in a bodybuilding contest or weightlifting event. Before a workout or event, take your caffeine an hour before to get optimal performance.
As far as dosage, most experts agree between 3 to 6 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight is optimal. For a 150-pound/68-kilogram person, that comes out between 200 and 400 milligrams respectively. The other advantage of taking caffeine as a pill is you know the exact dosage you are taking – many of the pills come in 100 milligram units. The old adage “If some is good more is better” does not apply here. Scientists have found that more than the recommended dosage does not improve performance.
As good as caffeine is, it can cause problems in some people. Besides interfering with sleep if taken too close to bedtime, it can also have the following effects:
Caffeine can have a slight diuretic effect meaning it can cause you to expel more fluid that you would normally if you were not taking the supplement. Because of this effect, increase your fluid intake when taking caffeine.
Caffeine can be addictive in the higher dosages over 200 mg per day. If you have been using caffeine for a considerable amount of time and decide to stop, you may suffer withdrawal effects, like headaches, anxiety, depression and cravings. Symptoms last from 2 to 9 days, but can be prevented, or at least minimized, by slowly reducing the dosage until at your new lower dosage or off of it altogether.
Caffeine does give you both a mental and physical edge when it comes to bodybuilding. However, like with all supplements, good judgement and common sense should be used.