Caffeine has been widely studied in regards to its impact on performance. Caffeine supplementation has been shown to improve performance in strength, power, and endurance exercises for both men and women.
Categorized as an ergogenic aid, a technique or substance used to enhance athletic performance, caffeine is often utilized to boost energy and provide performance benefits. As a Registered Dietitian, my goal is to inform you on how to incorporate your favorite caffeine sources in both a safe and effective way!
So, how much is safe to consume prior to exercise? Should you take pre-workout, or opt for a natural caffeine source? What should daily caffeine consumption be limited to, if at all?
These are all questions I receive as a Sports RD!
RECOMMENDED DAILY CAFFEINE INTAKE
Up to 400mg of caffeine per day is generally recognized as safe for healthy adults. For reference, this is approximately 4-5 cups of coffee (1 cup = approximately 90-100mg caffeine). For teens and adolescents, it is recommended to keep caffeine consumption to 100mg or less.
PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS & ENERGY DRINKS
Both pre-workout products and energy drinks are considered supplements. The supplement industry is NOT regulated by the FDA, which is why it is so important for athletes to choose a product that is third-party tested (NSF Certified for Sport, Informed Choice) to ensure what’s on the label is what is actually in the product.
Pre-workout powders contain caffeine along with other ingredients like artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols (which may cause GI distress or discomfort during training), certain amino acids (L-arginine, L-citrulline, beta-alanine, BCAAs, creatine), and dietary nitrates. I’d rather see a majority of these ingredients come from food before opting for a supplement. However, if you prefer a pre-workout powder over a natural source of caffeine – talk to an RD about a product that is both safe and effective for you to use.
Energy drinks also contain caffeine, oftentimes in very high amounts with some products containing over 300mg per can. They also have additives, proprietary blends, and additional ingredients which may pose a threat to your health (elevated blood pressure, heart arrhythmias) and again, are not third-party tested. Ask yourself, are these really helping improve my performance and overall health? …the answer is no.
I’d prefer to see you opt for a natural source of caffeine, if possible.
NATURAL SOURCES OF CAFFEINE
What are natural caffeine sources?
- Coffee (my personal favorite)
- Tea (like green tea or matcha)
- Dark Chocolate (cacao)
Before jumping straight to coffee or tea prior to exercise, I have a few questions for you – are you getting adequate sleep every night (7-8+ hours)? Are you consuming enough carbohydrates throughout the day, especially prior to training? Do you eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables, protein, whole-grains / complex carbohydrates, and dietary fat? Are you hydrating properly?
If the answer is yes, but you’d still like an extra energy boost, or to reap the ergogenic benefits caffeine can provide, try a cup of Canyon Coffee Roasters and use code TEAM8 for 20% off your purchase! It’s my favorite local coffee company here in Nebraska. I could not recommend Canyon Coffee Roasters enough!
Coffee isn’t your thing? Opt for green tea or matcha.
HOW MUCH CAFFEINE SHOULD I HAVE BEFORE TRAINING?
Research has consistently shown approximately 3-6 mg caffeine/kg body weight can provide ergogenic effects when consumed 60 minutes prior to exercise. Some studies claim you can still reap ergogenic benefits by consuming caffeine in smaller amounts. My advice? Start small, see how your body responds to 1 cup of coffee or 1 espresso shot an hour before training. Consult with an RD or health professional if you have further questions.
It’s always important to listen to your body. Caffeine’s response can vary from person to person based on a variety of factors. If caffeine causes any side effects or makes you feel jittery, anxious, irritable.. focus on optimizing sleep, carbohydrate intake, and hydration prior to exercise.