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Tuesday, April 16, 2013


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The alarm sounds, wake up in the morning and start your daily routine. The mind starts racing about the day’s activities; the next step caffeine intake and a jumpstart. According to the FDA, approximately 80% - 90% of Americans
consume caffeine daily. The drug is the most widely utilized in the world. Search it on Google and find over 55,000,000 hits. Input the search in medical search databases and find millions more. Caffeine or similar substances are consumed by the mass population on a daily basis (Unless medically prescribed otherwise), but a grey area is entered when it is added to dietary supplements. Many people can't translate a cup of coffee or tea to milligrams. Therefore they often mega dose on coffee and are unfamiliar with the symptoms that follow. 

There are two known mechanisms of action for caffeine:

  1. Adenosine receptor antagonism
  2. Inhibition of the enzyme, Type III phosphodiesterase, which will lead to an increase in the second messenger cAMP. cAMP activates many enzymes including those that burn fats.

There are two possible sites of action for caffeine: The brain and periphery. Both of these mechanisms are rather weak to activate at the indicated sites unless one consumes an increased quantity (large cups of coffee, strong espresso shots or highly caffeinated teas) which in turn makes a substantial difference and/or reaction. Caffeine causes wakening and alertness by both mechanisms. By blocking the brain effects of adenosine, caffeine wakes up the brain. By inhibiting cAMP in the periphery, more cAMP is made and this in turn activates most biochemical metabolic actions, including the burning of fats. Thus, caffeine is an energizer by two mechanisms: 1st) The brain which blocks the sleep/sedation effects on adenosine (which rises as we sleep) and 2nd) In the periphery to energize one’s body by increasing the burning of fuels.

The question is, and has always been, can caffeine increase performance, what are the possible risks with consumption and can one identify the correlation between health longevity and caffeine intake? Many studies suggest that caffeine is an enhancer, while others indicate it has no or negative effects on the body and GI tract. Creating a hypothesis and concluding the effects of caffeine in the overall population is a widely discussed topic in today's health community.

Caffeine should not be necessary pre workout if an individual can take in real food, keep a well balanced diet and continue adequate sleeping patterns, but science has shown there are positive effects through psychological components and also a biochemical component. Caffeine is a PDE III Inhibitor. When digested, cAMP increases which initiates fuel burning and protein synthesis.

PubMed added this recent publishing regarding athletic performance and caffeine stimuli.
Paluska SA.
University of Washington, Department of Family Medicine, Roosevelt Medical Center, 4245 Roosevelt
Way NE, Box 354775, Seattle, WA 98105, USA.
Caffeine is the most commonly consumed drug in the world, and athletes frequently use it as an ergogenic aid. It improves performance and endurance during prolonged, exhaustive exercise. To a lesser degree it also enhances short-term, high-intensity athletic performance. Caffeine improves concentration, reduces fatigue, and enhances alertness. Habitual intake does not diminish caffeine's ergogenic properties. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain the physiologic effects of caffeine, but adenosine receptor antagonism most likely accounts for the primary mode of action. It is relatively safe and has no known negative performance effects, nor does it cause significant dehydration or electrolyte imbalance during exercise. Routine caffeine consumption may cause tolerance or dependence, and abrupt discontinuation produces irritability, mood shifts, headache, drowsiness, or fatigue. Major sport governing bodies ban excessive use of caffeine, but current monitoring techniques are inadequate, and ethical dilemmas persist regarding caffeine intake by athletes.
PMID: 12834577
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

The possible down sides of caffeine pre-workout are related to heart rhythm changes. Caffeine by inhibiting the actions of adenosine can increase heart rate which can lead some individual’s to have arrhythmias. The issue with spiking caffeine intake prior to a high intensity movement or workout is the heart rate gets to levels so high that even small heart abnormalities will affect the ability of the heart to follow a a fast and consistent rate. The heart tires and becomes arrhymogenic. In the worse case this can result in ventricular fibrillation and sudden death.

Adding further to the effects of caffeine pre workout are the stimulant and relation to the GI tract. Adenosine receptors inhibit and increase gut motility. When caffeine is digested it initiates bowel movement. We have all had this situation before, a cup of coffee before a run or physical activity and about 10 minutes in, one is only thinking about finding the closest bathroom.

Caffeine can also have the reverse effect on the body and make you tired. Then the question is posed, if a stimulant how can this happen? The body becomes desensitized to the energy stimulation effects of cAMP, leaving the individual feeling tired and jittery. Anyone that uses caffeine as a stimulant has felt these effects before. Caffeine in moderation is ok, but can induce arrhythmia in some apparently healthy people.

After conducted research, there seems to be no real benefit to supplementing caffeine pre-workout. Test concluded that individuals saw no difference with it or without it and its correlations physical and mental performance. Why not consume plenty of “real” foods that have similar effects as caffeine. Like an apple!

Take a look at your lifestyle, think about a day without a hot cup of coffee in the morning, are you utilizing caffeine as a stimulant, what are the risks, can you survive without it?