Category Archives: caffeine

Coffee Study: Its not just the caffeine that makes you smart and athletic

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Caffeine and Coffee have been used by athletes to improve athletic performance and to make training easier.  Research is also indicating that coffee may also reduce risk of cognitive decline that comes with age.  A recent study sought to determine which is responsible for the positive effects of coffee on function:  Coffee itself or caffeine?  Aged (or Masters as we prefer to call them) Rats who drink the equivalent of 10 cups of coffee a day do better at cognitively and physically challenging tasks than rats who were given only caffeine supplements.

The Rat Coffee Study Design

All rats were male.  And aged.  Which for rats means about 18 months old.  Rats were given divided into groups and given either

  • Rat chow spiked with powdered coffee
  • Rat chow spiked with the equivalent of plain caffeine

for 8 weeks.  Rats were then subjected to a battery of psychological and neurological tests:

  1. Rod walking:  requiring the animal to balance on a stationary, horizontal rod
  2. Wire suspension: measures muscle strength and ability to grasp a horizontal wire and remain suspended
  3. Inclined screen: measures muscle tone, strength, stamina, and balance by placing the animal on a wire mesh screen tilted 60° to the horizontal plane of the floor
  4. Accelerating rotarod: measures fine motor coordination, balance, and resistance to fatigue by assessing the duration that the animal can remain standing/walking on a rotating, slowly accelerating rod.
  5. Keel hauling.  Rats were immersed in water at one of four random start locations. Each rat was allowed 120 s to escape onto the platform
  6. Plank walking, which measures balance and coordination making the animal walk a plank set out over the starboard bow at a height of approximately 20 feet above shark infested waters.

Now that is a workout.  Performances were recorded with video for submission to the CrossFit Games 2014.

Coffee Performance vs. Caffeine Only Performance

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Mona Lisa Hoists her Kettlebells on a soft, quick-drying tri-blend WODMASTERS workout shirt

The rats who got the powdered coffee did better than the rats who received caffeine supplements.   What does this mean for us?  Coffee, like most foods, is a complex mixture containing hundreds if not thousands of different chemicals.  These chemicals include vitamins and minerals, but there are also many many others whose actions we don’t yet understand.

We also understand very little about how different nutrients interact.  We also know little about the effects of taking too much.   This is why it is better to eat a healthy diet of real food than to rely on supplements or No-Doze Monster drinks or whatever that stuff in the tiny bottles is called.  College students take note.  Masters athletes: Hold off on massive anti-oxidant supplements.  Anti-oxidants at high levels can damage DNA.

Coffee Study: Its not just the caffeine that makes you smarter and more athletic

 

Last note on coffee:

10 cups is probably too much.  No note was made on how jittery and neurotic the rats felt.  High coffee consumption is associated with other problems.

 

Cropley V, Croft R, Silber B, Neale C, Scholey A, Stough C, & Schmitt J (2012). Does coffee enriched with chlorogenic acids improve mood and cognition after acute administration in healthy elderly? A pilot study. Psychopharmacology, 219 (3), 737-49 PMID: 21773723

Cho ES, Jang YJ, Hwang MK, Kang NJ, Lee KW, & Lee HJ (2009). Attenuation of oxidative neuronal cell death by coffee phenolic phytochemicals. Mutation research, 661 (1-2), 18-24 PMID: 19028509

Shukitt-Hale B, Miller MG, Chu YF, Lyle BJ, & Joseph JA (2013). Coffee, but not caffeine, has positive effects on cognition and psychomotor behavior in aging. Age (Dordrecht, Netherlands), 35 (6), 2183-92 PMID: 23344884

Caffeine Coffee and Timing for performance and competition

Caffeine Coffee Tea (Coke?).  First we’ll start off talking about the importance of time of day in athletic performance.

Compete, if possible, in the afternoon over the morning.

Keep Austin Weirdfest 5K CrossFit Seven Athlete prepares for the event.
CrossFit Seven Athlete waits for his event. He’d look better in a WODMASTERS shirt

Athletes perform better in the afternoon and early evening than in the morning.This is the case for weightlifting as well as for endurance exercise like running, swimming and cycling.  Even penmanship is less precise in the morning.  Possibly it’s a warm up issue.  But it looks like a circadian rhythm issue too.  The circadian rhythm is an internal clock that regulates what you do during a day.  It regulates sleeping patterns.   Also body temperature, hormones and fluid regulation. Muscle response to stimulation is stronger in late afternoon.  A 2012 study (Mora-Rodriguez et al.) looked at electrically-induced response in weight lifters.  And they looked at voluntary contraction too, comparing morning and afternoon response.  All weightlifters were men.  All were described as highly trained elite weightlifters. The weightlifters lived in a research facility and were denied caffeine for 4 days before testing.  (That must have been tough.) The study also compared voluntary and electrically induced response in the morning with and without caffeine.  If you are wondering “what is caffeine” get some coffee.  Lifters were given caffeine on a body weight basis.  Caffeine was taken 60 minutes before performance testing.

Study Details: Caffeine, Weightlifting and Performance.

  • Test times were at 10:00 am and 6:00 PM.  Caffeine intake was 3mg per kg.  (if you weigh 80kg.  that’s about 240 mg or  about one 12 ounce cup of extremely strong starbucks style coffee.)  Caffeine was taken 45 minutes before lifting.
  • Morning performance vs. evening performance
  • Morning performance with Caffeine supplement vs. Placebo.

Results

Mother and daughter at Crossfit Seven in Fort Worth, TX.  Caffeine Coffee?  You bet.
Mother and daughter at Crossfit Seven in Fort Worth, TX. Caffeine Coffee? You bet.

Strength and power output with placebo was better in the evening by 3% to 7.5% over morning strength and power output.   Caffeine in the morning increased strength and power output by 4.6% to 5.7% for squats when compared to no morning caffeine.  Electrically invoked response increased by 14.6% and nerve activation jumped 96.8%.  Squats seemed to be more caffeine dependent than bench press.  Maybe mornings are just meant to be spent drinking coffee.

If you are doing Crossfit Open competitions:

This site started as a site for Crossfit Masters Athletes, so here is the info for Crossfit readers:  For people trying to qualify for regionals or the CrossFit Games 2013 this could be important.  Do your Open CrossFit WOD’s in the afternoon.   If you can.  Caffeine in the morning will get your muscles up to the level they’d be if you did your workout in the afternoon.  So when you are competing during a morning WOD, have some coffee 45 minutes before the event.  And don’t forget the four days of abstinence before hand.Last note: caffeine peaks in your blood stream 30-60 minutes after its taken.

  • Abstain from coffee for 4 days before your event
  • Drink Coffee 30-45 minutes before you start
  • Do your event in the afternoon if possible

Note: Tablet or pure caffeine Coffee may not give the same results:

You can read more about the effects of coffee vs caffeine here.

Mora-Rodríguez R, García Pallarés J, López-Samanes Á, Ortega JF, & Fernández-Elías VE (2012). Caffeine ingestion reverses the circadian rhythm effects on neuromuscular performance in highly resistance-trained men. PloS one, 7 (4) PMID: 22496767

CrossFit Research: Endurance, Resistance or Alternating Workouts?

Two athletes talk about nutrition and fitness
Two Paleo CrossFit-ters discuss something at CrossFit Seven in Ft. Worth.

Research for CrossFit

There has been very little research specifically on CrossFit.  However there is a lot to learn from studies that have focused on resistance and strength.  And on Endurance and Strength.

Which is better?  Should you do endurance exercise first and then resistance?  Or resistance training and then endurance?  It looks like alternating your routine gives the best results in terms of performance.  New research published this month reports on the effectiveness of mixed exercise routines in women.  Groups of untrained women were asked to do one of the following:

1. Run on a treadmill for 30 minutes, then do resistance training
2. Do resistance training, then run on a treadmill for 30 minutes
3. Spent 10 minutes on a treadmill then do a set of resistance exercises.  Repeat 3 times so the total endurance exercise was 30 minutes, and 3 sets of weights were done.

Results for alternating workouts (like CrossFit workouts).

Women in the third group put out greater energy expenditure, greater oxygen consumption, greater rate of ventilation and exhaled less oxygen than women in groups 1 and 2.  The results might hold true for men.  Will will assume they do until someone reports otherwise.  This would mean running before weight training, and then switching to weight training followed by running (or swimming, cycling, etc).  People ask about this a lot.  For most people doing endurance before lifting feels more natural. That is probably because it is easier.

This does sound like a CrossFit study.  And it also sounds like a CrossFit approach to fitness is really harder (and more effective) than other approaches.  If you are wondering: “what is CrossFit?” click the link.  The new study also reports that women perceive their level of exertion as greater when they lifted before running.  Exertion is often uncomfortable and most people will try to minimize the discomfort they feel during exercise.  However, if you trying to improve your overall fitness (as CrossFit does) you would do well to vary your routine (Di Blasio et al. 2012.)  This is something Cross Fit advocates as a general principle.  You will get better at what you work at.  If you only work at one thing, you will only be trained for one thing.

CrossFit SouthCentral athletes prepare for CrossFit games at CrossFit Seven.

How to deal with workout discomfort.

Looking for a way to reduce horrible feeling you get when pushing through a challenging workout? Try caffeine. Caffeine may help blunt sensations of pain and allow to do more reps or go harder and faster (Green et al. 2007.) Stop if you feel you have injured yourself or are feeling pain in the chest or along the arm. Dealing with burn is one thing. Being foolish is another.

  

Di Blasio A, Gemello E, Di Iorio A, Di Giacinto G, Celso T, Di Renzo D, Sablone A, Ripari P. 2012. Order effects of concurrent endurance and resistance training on post-exercise response of non-trained women. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. 11: 393-399.

Green JM, Wickwire PJ, McLester JR, Gendle S, Hudson G, Pritchett RC, & Laurent CM (2007). Effects of caffeine on repetitions to failure and ratings of perceived exertion during resistance training. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 2 (3), 250-9 PMID: 19168925