Coffee & Bodybuilding: What’s the Verdict?

Mihai Voinea
Medically reviewed by Mihai Voinea Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) — Research analysis by Alex Eriksson

There is so much conflicting information regarding coffee & bodybuilding on the internet. Some would promote it as the answer to accelerated fat loss while some would say that it will make you fatter. 

There are also others stating that it can increase your performance while others contradict this by saying it increases your chance for heart disease.

So, what should you believe?

This article will get the facts straight and look at how caffeine can help you in bodybuilding.



How Coffee Can Help Your Bodybuilding Goals

Increased Performance in Your Workout

It is common knowledge that coffee contains the substance caffeine. This substance is a stimulant due to its ability to raise your adrenaline levels. It does this by blocking the neurotransmitter adenosine from triggering its receptors. 

With the adenosine receptors blocked, the stimulants produced by your brain, such as dopamine and glutamine, are free to trigger their receptors.

Activation of these receptors cause increased activity for your neurons. This causes your pituitary gland to release hormones that prompt the release of adrenaline, which leads to:

  • Increase in blood pressure,
  • Elevation of heart rate,
  • Prioritized blood flow to muscles, and
  • The release of stored sugars in the liver.

These effects cause your body to have more energy available for your workout and get more gains from a single session. Various researches that studied caffeine have observed that this resulted in increased performance in strength training workout, quick-burst exercises, and long-term aerobic exercises.

Also, the increased adrenaline levels increase your pain threshold, and reduce the rate of your perceived exhaustion. This leads to you having the ability to working harder compared to having a workout without the help of caffeine. So, if you’re lifting heavy and feel fatigued even before finishing your workout, coffee might be something that can help you. 

Better Mind-Muscle Connection Training

Your movements are a result of contractions of the different muscles in your body. These muscle contractions result from signals sent by your brain to these muscles. 

Bodybuilders took advantage of this through active contraction of the muscles used during an exercise. This practice improves the communication between the brain and the muscles, which results to greater muscular strength and increased long-term muscular gains.

You can take the benefits of mind-muscle connection training with the help of caffeine. A study has shown that caffeine can increase the voluntary muscle activation and the maximum activity in a muscle. This resulted in marked improvements in explosive movements and isometric exercises.

Boost Fat Loss and Preserve Lean Muscle During a Workout

Lipolysis is the process of breaking down lipids from your body fat into free fatty acids. Your body uses the free fatty acids to provide the energy requirements of your muscles and metabolism. Adrenaline, or epinephrine, is one of the hormones or neurotransmitters that can trigger this process.

With caffeine from coffee, you can influence your body to start lipolysis. This will provide you the energy needed to get through your workout. Since you already have the needed fuel for your exercises, your body can preserve your lean muscle mass instead of using the fuel stored in it.

Furthermore, you are prioritizing the metabolism of the energy stores in your body fat. This will help you have easier time losing fat and getting more definition for your physique.


Limitations of Using Coffee for Bodybuilding

You Need a Certain Amount of Caffeine to Experience Benefits

You need at least 100 milligrams of caffeine to experience its performance-enhancing benefits. To get this amount of caffeine from coffee, you must drink more than 8 oz. of brewed coffee, or two shots of espresso. 

The minimum coffee intake required becomes even more complicated given that caffeine content varies depending on the amount of ground coffee used, the brewing technique, and the roast type of the coffee beans.

Coffee Should Only Be Taken BEFORE Your Workout

Caffeine is the last thing that you need during your post-workout recovery. This is because of your body only being able to be either at an anabolic or catabolic state at any given time.

An anabolic state is when your body is releasing insulin, human growth hormone, and testosterone to induce muscle growth, tissue repair, and bone mineralization. A catabolic state is when your body releases cortisol to release muscle proteins and fatty acids and break these down for energy.

Drinking caffeinated beverage after a workout will prompt the release of cortisol in your body. The release of cortisol would have your body go into a catabolic state. This will prevent the release of the needed hormones for recovery. Therefore, you might be resting from your workout but your body is actually not undergoing the actual process of recovery.

This will delay your body’s recovery as the necessary hormones for it are absent in its system. Given that delayed recovery delays the time of your full recovery, you are likely to exercise at a fatigued state on your next workout. If you make this a habit and normally train hard, you are increasing your chances of getting an injury and developing chronic fatigue syndrome.

Coffee and Other Sources of Caffeine Can Ruin Your Sleep

Caffeine raises cortisol. If cortisol is too high, your body would not produce enough melatonin for a good night of sleep. This will make it difficult for your body to recover from your workout and to have optimal strength for the next day’s workout.

Too Much Caffeine Is a Bad Thing

High levels of caffeine can boost your cortisol levels. You can gain body fat if you make this a daily thing in the long term. You can even increase the chances of adrenal fatigue if you have a demanding schedule at work or at home on top of your workout program.

Too much caffeine also decreases its effects on your body. If you do not keep track of your caffeine intake and just chase after the effects on your energy, you would likely consume more and more caffeine and compound the negative effects of caffeine on your body.

Effect Vary Among Individuals

Your body is unique. So, you can expect that your experience with coffee and caffeine will be unique. This means you will have a unique minimum amount to experience benefits.


So, What Should You Do?

You can work around the drawbacks of caffeine by choosing to giving-up coffee. Bodybuilding requires you to be precise with your nutrition and, if you want to achieve serious goals, you have no choice but to do so. This requires you get your caffeine intake from a source that can provide you with specific amounts of caffeine – namely, caffeine supplements.

You can get accurately measure you caffeine intake in this way. You can adjust the dosage based on your unique response to it. This will help you avoid the guesswork in drinking coffee and all you would have to do is wait for the caffeine to take effect.


author
Alex Eriksson (Research Analysis)

Alex Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research-backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals.

author
Mihai Voinea (Editor)

Mihai is a medical doctor and entrepreneur with a burning obsession for performance and health. Mihai is also an IronMan, ultramarathon runner, and co-founder of Marsilian, which owns two e-learning platforms for future medical students and doctors.





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