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How can caffeine help you to enjoy exercise?

by Chloe McLeod and Jessica Spendlove Accredited Sports Dietitians from Health Performance Collective.

Intuitively you probably already know that if you see results from an activity, you are more likely to gain motivation, and repeat it, helping you to establish a new behaviour. And the easier that change feels, the more likely you are to enjoy it and repeat it. And the more you do, the more results you see and so a spiral of success can be created. But can caffeine really help achieve this?

Many of us can’t make it through the working day without our caffeine fix.  You may have noticed that almost every pre-workout supplement contains caffeine, and for good reason.  Caffeine has become an increasingly popular supplement taking by athletes and is one of the few supplements which have a good body of evidence behind it.  So, let’s take a closer look at how using caffeine in the gym can help you enjoy exercise!

How does caffeine help with exercise?

Caffeine may improve exercise performance through various mechanisms, with the greatest effects likely to be achieved via impact on the central nervous system (CNS).  This impact on the CNS may reduce the perception of effort, making exercise seem ‘easier’.  It is widely accepted that caffeine has the positive effects of increased alertness, improved mood, reduced fatigue, and improved exercise performance.  Another proposed mechanism of caffeine which may appeal to some gym-goers is the potential to increase fat oxidation, which could aid weight loss. 

What is the best time to consume caffeine pre-exercise?

To get the most out of caffeine’s exercise enhancing effects, the timing of consumption is important.  It is normally recommended individuals consume caffeine approximately one hour prior to their gym/training session so that caffeine should ideally hit peak concentration at the commencement of the workout.  But for morning workouts this isn’t always possible, Revvies Energy Strips, maybe be a good solution, as they recommend taking 1-2 strips just 5 mins before exercise.   


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How much caffeine should I have pre-exercise?

Appropriate dosage of caffeine is highly variable between individuals and requires some trial and error.  For most everyday individuals 80-150mg caffeine pre-gym is appropriate, depending on habitual caffeine consumption.  If you don’t normally have caffeine or are particularly caffeine sensitive, then it is ideal to start with small quantities (40mg) and increase as tolerated/needed.  If you’re wanting to include a caffeine boost before the gym but are already a habitual coffee drinker and don’t want to compromise your coffee during the day, then the lower (40mg) dose of Revvies strips is a great option.  This lower 40mg dose is also useful for those exercising in the afternoon/early evening who are concerned about the lingering effect of excess caffeine and don’t want to impact their sleep. (Post article note: Revvies will release a Cola and Lemon strip with 100mg of caffeine in Jan 2019.)

Keep in mind that more is not always better and excess consumption can have unwanted side-effects such as diarrhoea, nausea, headaches, tremors, impaired sleep, and increased heart rate.

What form should I consume caffeine in for exercise?

Caffeine can be consumed in various forms, and this one comes down to individual preference.  Traditionally caffeine has been consumed in the liquid form of a pre-workout supplement or coffee, but for those that dislike a lot of fluid in their stomach prior to exercise or if the liquid causes stomach upset or stitches then opting for a Revvies strip may again be a more suitable option.