Caffeine is the most widely used “drug” in the world, consumed daily by millions in coffee, tea, and sodas. We use it for its stimulating effects, for a jolt of energy, or in an attempt to fight fatigue — and it does work. What most coffee drinkers don’t know is that caffeine mobilizes fat for use as energy, which is a great thing if you are exercising and trying to reduce fat but not so good if you spend your days sitting at a desk eating doughnuts. Caffeine is a standard part of many stimulating, weight-loss supplements.
Caffeine is found naturally in coffee (most prominently), tea, chocolate, cola products, guarana (an herb), kola nut (another herb), and many “fat-burning” type weight-loss products.
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Caffeine has been shown to improve performance, increasing strength output and available energy. Its stimulatory effects improve focus, concentration, and energy levels. This may be especially beneficial prior to a competition or workout.
Because caffeine suppresses appetite and aids in the use of fats for fuel, it’s almost a standard ingredient in weight-loss products. Sure, like anything, you can get too much of a good thing, but used with reason, it is safe and no more addicting than picking up lint.
No deficiency conditions are known to exist.
Research indicates that Caffeine may be useful in the treatment of:
While most people are pretty familiar with the wonders of caffeine, this popular nutrient has received such negative reports from the media and those who claim to be “in the know” that many have written it off as an “unsafe” stimulant without considering its many positive attributes. The good news for us java lovers is our mornin’ Cup O’ Joe has simply gotten a bad rap. Caffeine has been shown in numerous research studies to be effective as a safe stimulant, thermogenic agent, weight-loss aid, and performance enhancer.
Caffeine is called a thermogenic agent because it helps speed up our metabolisms or the rate our bodies burn calories. It’s also quite obviously a stimulant, which explains why a stop at the local coffee shop or an afternoon Diet Coke can almost immediately make people feel more energized — mentally and physically — at least for a little while. Contrary to popular (and limiting) belief, these effects can be obtained without any of the often-proclaimed negatives.
Caffeine appears to stimulate the adrenal glands to release the hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine (i.e., adrenaline), and the brain messenger dopamine, which in turn enhance fat loss, energy, and endurance, as well as mental clarity.
Consuming caffeine before a workout may actually help our bodies use fatty acids for fuel, which would not only mean our cells would have more available energy to work harder but would also mean stored fat deposits are “dipped into” for that energy. In other words, caffeine may make our fat-burning workouts even more effective while giving our muscles the extra energy to push just a little harder, a little longer.
Some researchers believe that caffeine stimulates the release of calcium into muscles, which may encourage healthy muscle contractions and improve the overall health of our muscle tissues. However, more research is needed to fully understand this possible phenomenon.
In addition to caffeine’s potential fat-loss and energy-enhancing benefits, it’s also been shown to enhance sex drive in men and women, improve a sense of well-being, and actually decrease tendency toward suicide. To quote David Letterman: “If it weren’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever.” How many of us can relate?
Interestingly, women, though not men, who drank caffeinated coffee were shown to perform better on 12 different tests, suggesting caffeine has positive effects on mental speed and attentiveness. Sadly, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean that taking time out for a double espresso will make you smarter.
Harvard researchers have now recently reported that drinking four or more cups of coffee per day may even lower the risk for type 2 diabetes. Still, we need more studies on this effect before coffee could be recommended for diabetes prevention.
Because of recent research, caffeine is often used with ephedra and aspirin (sometimes referred to as the E/C/A stack or ephedra, caffeine, and aspirin stack) to optimize its stimulant and fat-fighting effects. Often, the natural herbal forms of guarana (caffeine), ma huang (ephedrine), and white willow bark (aspirin) are used. Most studies show combining 200 mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to about 900 mg guarana, with about 350 mg ephedra (standardized for 6 to 8% or at least 20 mg of ephedrine) and adding in 60 to 75 mg of white willow bark (an herbal form of aspirin) to be effective. Watch out, though, as many who have tried it will contend, this combination pulls a “power-packed” punch. In other words, it will “kick you in the butt,” but it may certainly help boost energy levels and help you shed fat.
The popular combination of ephedra, caffeine, aspirin can be found in many of today’s energy-spiked sports drinks. But more typically, it is found in most “fat-burning,” “metabolic-enhancing,” and weight-loss products because it’s been reported to increase metabolic rate and increase the mobilization (loss) of fat. While this combination has been shown to help people lose fat, contrary to most marketing copy, it has only a minimal effect on the base metabolic rate — instead, it stimulates the adrenal glands and suppresses appetite.
One caveat: when using these products together, many experts report that it’s best to use them only temporarily — for no more than three to four weeks at a time before taking one to two weeks off because the body tends to become rather resistant to its effects after a short period of time. Plus, it can be pretty hard on the body to be stimulated for long periods of time. Consider it along the lines of supplement-induced stress.
Now, of course, a dose of common sense is very important when using caffeine or any stimulant. Drinking two entire pots of coffee by yourself in a day is just plain nonsense! There is truth in the old saying, “too much of a good thing can hurt ya.” But in moderate amounts, up to three cups of coffee a day, caffeine has been shown in research to have no ill effects.
The stimulating facts about caffeine are that it’s not “evil” and has in fact shown itself to be a valuable aid for increasing fat loss, boosting energy, and effectively helping athletes reach higher levels of performance.
For instant “energy,” as a stimulant or performance-enhancing substance, studies support taking 100 to 200 mg up to 3 times per day.
Caffeine is usually consumed in its liquid form; that is, coffee, tea, or soda. However, tablets and capsules, such as Vivarin™ and No-Doz™, are also available and fairly easy to find. Caffeine can be found in most thermogenic (fat-burning) or stimulant formulas, either in the form of caffeine or it’s herbal counterpart, guarana.
Because each person’s reaction to “stimulants” may differ, some experimentation is needed to determine the “best” amount to consume. It may be worth starting with 100 mg, which is about equal to a strong cup of coffee, and then determining if more is needed to produce the required “stimulatory” effect.
Because caffeine is a diuretic (it dehydrates the body), it’s important to increase water intake. Some experts recommend adding two cups of water for every cup of coffee consumed on top of the usual eight to ten glasses of water recommended daily.
Caffeine can be consumed throughout the day and is especially popular first thing in the morning, as a cup of coffee, for a boost to get the day started.
If using caffeine to increase energy and focus for a workout, it’s probably best to consume it 30 to 60 minutes before a workout.
To increase athletic performance for an event or competition, many experts suggest it’s best to eliminate caffeine intake for a few days before the event. Then one hour beforehand, take two milligrams for every pound of bodyweight. In the real world, for example, this equates to a 180-lb person using 360 mg of caffeine (about 3 cups of coffee).
Used with ephedra in a 10 to 1 ratio of caffeine to ephedra (200 mg of caffeine and ephedra standardized for 20 mg of ephedrine) has been shown to synergistically increase its stimulating and appetite-suppressant effects. Aspirin (150 to 300 mg) is often added to this stack to make it even more effective. When using these products together, many experts report it’s best to use them for only three to four weeks and then take one to two weeks off.
If you are pregnant or lactating, don’t tolerate stimulants well, or have a preexisting heart condition, caffeine is not recommended.
Overuse of caffeine can cause jitteriness, irritability, insomnia, and can deplete nutrients from the body, but these effects are usually short-lived.
No known toxicity.
Caffeine is banned by the IOC (International Olympic Committee). Believe it or not, caffeine and caffeine-containing products are considered stimulants; therefore, the IOC prohibits/banned the use of it among its competing athletes.