Updated: Aug 15
Caffeine is a potent stimulant that can enhance exercise performance, strength, and energy. As a result of this improved performance, taking caffeine can lead to enhanced muscle growth.
Some organisations, such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), have begun to prohibit caffeine in large dosages due to its beneficial benefits on exercise performance.
It helps in muscle growth in the following ways.
First, let's take a look into how caffeine works.
How it Works
When taken by mouth, caffeine is quickly absorbed into the circulation, with blood levels peaking 30-120 minutes later.
Serum levels stay elevated for 3-4 hours before beginning to decline via breakdown by the liver. (1)
Caffeine has the ability to influence cells all throughout your body, such as muscle cells, fat cells, and the central nervous system. (2)
Muscular: Caffeine may boost muscular function by stimulating the central nervous system, although the precise processes behind this are unknown. (3)
Hormones: Caffeine boosts the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline), which are responsible for the fight or flight response. They also improve performance and strength. (8)
Body Temperature: Caffeine has been proven to enhance heat production (thermogenesis), which helps you burn more calories by raising your body temperature. This, in turn, helps with weight loss. (11)
Caffeine's impact on strength is currently being studied. Although consumption of caffeine has shown beneficial effects on strength, the results are still inconclusive.
In one study, 12 people were given either 1.4 mg of per pound (3 mg per kg) of body weight or a placebo before doing bench presses.
When compared to a placebo, caffeine consumption resulted in substantially higher force and power production. (12)
A placebo or 1.4 or 2.7 mg of caffeine per pound (3 or 6 mg per kg) of body weight were given to 12 individuals who frequently used caffeine.
Caffeine consumption enhanced power production and bar velocity while completing 5 sets of bench press throws when compared to a placebo. (13)
Caffeine consumption before to an exercise, on the other hand, had no effect on muscular strength, as assessed by handgrip strength, among CrossFit competitors in one study. (14)
Other research looked at whether ingesting a high dosage of caffeine increased muscular strength in male athletes who drank coffee on a daily basis.
When compared to a placebo, taking a high dosage of caffeine had no effect on their maximal bench press strength. (15)
Caffeine seems to provide advantages for power-based tasks in general, although additional study is required to conclude anything.
Although caffeine increases strength, it hasn't been directly linked to enhanced muscle growth, but it is likely that it would lead to enhanced muscle growth, at least in the long-term.
Caffeine use before to exercise may result in a substantial increase in the release of stored fat, this release of stored fat not only helps with weight loss but also increases the energy available to your muscles, especially during exercise. (16)
Caffeine increases endurance slightly when taken in moderate dosages of 1.4-2.7 mg per pound (3-6 mg per kg) of body weight, according to a comprehensive analysis of research. (17)
In one study, trained cyclists who took either 100 or 200 mg of caffeine combined with a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution in the workout finished the time trial quicker than those who just consumed the carbohydrate-electrolyte solution. (18)
Cyclists who took 200 mg of caffeine finished the time trial quicker than those who took the 100 mg dosage. (18)
One of the effects of caffeine which is likely to improve performance is its ability to reduce perceived exertion during exercise.
This means that people who take caffeine believe they have done less work than they actually have, meaning they may workout for harder or longer. (19)
Caffeine also reduces drowsiness and tiredness as a result of its adenosine blocking actions in the brain, leading to enhanced performance.
Finally, caffeine may enhance focus, especially when paired with l-theanine, further improving your workouts.
How Caffeine Helps Build Muscle
Muscle growth is a result of exposing your muscles to stimuli that is outside of what it's used to.
When you workout, the heavier the weight or the more reps you do, the more of a stimulus is put on your muscles, requiring them to adapt and become bigger or stronger.
Your endurance and strength increases when you take caffeine, allowing you to increase the weight you use and the reps you do, increasing the total load on your muscles.
Although caffeine does not directly increase muscle growth, the actions of caffeine on strength and endurance result in increased long-term muscle growth.
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This evidence based analysis on caffeine and muscle growth features 19 references, listed below.
1. Guest NS, VanDusseldorp TA, Nelson MT, Grgic J, Schoenfeld BJ, Jenkins NDM, Arent SM, Antonio J, Stout JR, Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Goldstein ER, Kalman DS, Campbell BI. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2021, Jan 2) (Review) ✔
2. Barcelos RP, Lima FD, Carvalho NR, Bresciani G, Royes LF. Caffeine effects on systemic metabolism, oxidative-inflammatory pathways, and exercise performance. Nutr Res. (2020, Aug) (Review) ✔
3. Franco-Alvarenga PE, Brietzke C, Canestri R, Goethel MF, Viana BF, Pires FO. Caffeine Increased Muscle Endurance Performance Despite Reduced Cortical Activation and Unchanged Neuromuscular Efficiency and Corticomuscular Coherence. Nutrients. (2019, Oct 15) ✔
4. Collado-Mateo D, Lavín-Pérez AM, Merellano-Navarro E, Coso JD. Effect of Acute Caffeine Intake on the Fat Oxidation Rate during Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. (2020, Nov 24) (Meta-Analysis) ✔
5. Nieman DC, Simonson A, Sakaguchi CA, Sha W, Blevins T, Hattabaugh J, Kohlmeier M. Acute Ingestion of a Mixed Flavonoid and Caffeine Supplement Increases Energy Expenditure and Fat Oxidation in Adult Women: A Randomized, Crossover Clinical Trial. Nutrients. (2019, Nov 5) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔
6. McLellan TM, Caldwell JA, Lieberman HR. A review of caffeine's effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. (2016, Dec) (Review) ✔
7. Clark I, Landolt HP. Coffee, caffeine, and sleep: A systematic review of epidemiological studies and randomized controlled trials. Sleep Med Rev. (2017, Feb) (Review) ✔
8. Van Soeren M, Mohr T, Kjaer M, Graham TE. Acute effects of caffeine ingestion at rest in humans with impaired epinephrine responses. J Appl Physiol (1985). (1996, Mar) ✔
9. Vitale K, Getzin A. Nutrition and Supplement Update for the Endurance Athlete: Review and Recommendations. Nutrients. (2019, Jun 7) (Review) ✔
10. Martins GL, Guilherme JPLF, Ferreira LHB, de Souza-Junior TP, Lancha AH Jr. Caffeine and Exercise Performance: Possible Directions for Definitive Findings. Front Sports Act Living. (2020, Dec 11) (Review) ✔
11. McHill AW, Smith BJ, Wright KP Jr. Effects of caffeine on skin and core temperatures, alertness, and recovery sleep during circadian misalignment. J Biol Rhythms. (2014, Apr) (Controlled Clinical Trial) ✔
12. Giráldez-Costas V, González-García J, Lara B, Coso JD, Wilk M, Salinero JJ. Caffeine Increases Muscle Performance During a Bench Press Training Session. J Hum Kinet. (2020, Aug 31) ✔
13. Wilk M, Filip A, Krzysztofik M, Gepfert M, Zajac A, Del Coso J. Acute Caffeine Intake Enhances Mean Power Output and Bar Velocity during the Bench Press Throw in Athletes Habituated to Caffeine. Nutrients. (2020, Feb 4) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔
14. Fogaça LJ, Santos SL, Soares RC, Gentil P, Naves JP, Dos Santos WD, Pimentel GD, Bottaro M, Mota JF. Effect of caffeine supplementation on exercise performance, power, markers of muscle damage, and perceived exertion in trained CrossFit men: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. (2020, Feb) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔
15. Wilk M, Krzysztofik M, Filip A, Zajac A, Del Coso J. The Effects of High Doses of Caffeine on Maximal Strength and Muscular Endurance in Athletes Habituated to Caffeine. Nutrients. (2019, Aug 15) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔
16. Collado-Mateo D, Lavín-Pérez AM, Merellano-Navarro E, Coso JD. Effect of Acute Caffeine Intake on the Fat Oxidation Rate during Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. (2020, Nov 24) (Meta-Analysis) ✔
17. Southward K, Rutherfurd-Markwick KJ, Ali A. The Effect of Acute Caffeine Ingestion on Endurance Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. (2018, Aug) (Review) ✔
18. Talanian JL, Spriet LL. Low and moderate doses of caffeine late in exercise improve performance in trained cyclists. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. (2016, Aug) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔
19. Doherty, M & Smith, Paul. Effects of caffeine ingestion on rating of perceived exertion during and after exercise: A meta-analysis. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports. (2005)
✔ Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.
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