Have you been wondering what could spark your gains? Look no further than some caffeine to kick it up a notch!
Caffeine has been keeping people buzzing since the 15th century. So is it one of the top fat burners?
There have been many discoveries on this powerhouse. It’s a part of one of the most accepted beverages of the modern age – especially in the western world.
And, it’s a well-known fact that it can aid in both mental and physical performance. That’s why it’s so commonly used by gym-goers as a natural pre-workout.
Caffeine can boost alertness, improve your mood, sharpen your focus and help improve your ability to handle pain. It can even help you burn fat and do more in the gym for longer periods of time. In fact, it is so effective, that the World Anti-Doping Agency had caffeine on its list of banned items until 2004! At this point, more than 50% of people around the world consume some form of caffeine.
By far the most popular sources of caffeine comes from drinking coffee, so I’ll address this first. For years, I’ve loved coffee in many forms. Even the simple aroma of freshly ground beans seems to lift my spirits.
Recently, Starbucks seems to have become my new office! I always knew it was powerful stuff, but was keen to research just how good it may be. There are good and bad sides to including it before training sessions and as part of your daily diets that work.
The Good and The Bad of Caffeine
#1 Sports And Workout Performance
The Good – In Australia, they have found that drinking as little as a single espresso before exercise can boost endurance levels by up to 25%, mobilizing fatty acids and providing fuel for active muscles. Fatty acid deficiency is quite common.
The Bad – Coffee is a liquid leeching diuretic. It is up to 10 times less effective than water for replacing body fluids. Also, if you drink more than four cups prior to exercise, you can put a potentially dangerous strain on your heart.
Know when enough is enough! Your health could depend on it.
#2 Mental Focus
The Good – Recent research suggests that drinking up to two coffee cups can improve your short-term memory and increase alertness. Caffeine also has a bit of a mood-boosting effect. The reason for this is because caffeine releases dopamine.
This works to stimulate a portion of your brain that is responsible for pleasure. Coffee is also known to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 60%. It could also half your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
The Bad – Consuming more than four cups a day isn’t a good idea. All it accomplishes is to relieve your symptoms of withdrawal. It really won’t boost your mental abilities.
It may be best to limit yourself to two cups per day and drink one about 10 minutes before the important task.
The Good – It revs up your heart rate, nervous system and breathing. Caffeine gets your body ready to perform at its peak. It could also prompt your muscles to release extra calcium. The result is that your muscle contractions will be stronger.
The Bad – If you are getting your caffeine through coffee, there might be other chemical compounds in it that could prevent the caffeine from helping you in your workouts. As a result, you might be better off getting your caffeine from caffeinated energy drinks or even pills.
#4 Heart Healthy
The Good – Research has found that drinking more than six cups per day did not increase the risk of heart disease. Also, a Brooklyn scientist discovered that guys who consumed four cups of coffee per day had a 53% lower risk of developing heart disease than those who were caffeine free.
The Bad – It forces your arteries to constrict and raises your blood pressure. But, if you do not already suffer from hypertension, the temporary blood pressure rise is not known to cause a problem. Also, if you are a regular coffee drinker, the impact on blood pressure is much less.
The body becomes tolerant to the effects of caffeine.
The Good – It is an appetite suppressant and boosts your heart rate and metabolism. Rarely does someone need to know how to gain weight with a fast metabolism. Drinking six cups per day combined with a low-fat diet and exercise can boost fat burning by up to a fifth.
The Bad – Without the exercise and diet, there is no proof that caffeine has any major effect by itself.
The Good – You might be able to better prevent tooth decay thanks to the chemicals in your coffee.
These chemicals work to prevent bacteria from sticking to your enamel.
The Bad – The chemicals prevent bacteria sticking to your enamel by sticking to it themselves. This can cause discoloring. To combat this, use toothpaste with bicarbonate of soda.
#7 Overall Health
The Good – Coffee has many antioxidants and protects us against cancer and heart disease. Drinking more than four cups has also been shown to protect against gallstones and cirrhosis of the liver. This is due to its soluble fiber.
The Bad – Coffee does not have the same amount of antioxidants as fruit and veggies. What it does have is also harder to absorb. Also, if you drink coffee within one hour of eating a meal, it reduces the absorption of iron and zinc.
Here Are Some Caffeine Sources…
Most of the caffeine we consume today is extracted from plants during the process of decaffeinating either coffee or tea.
But, there are so many sources. Of course, they all have perks and drawbacks.
As mentioned, perhaps the most common method for getting your caffeine is a good old cup of coffee.
Coffee is loaded with the types of antioxidants that could help to decrease the oxidative damage that your muscles experience as a result of weightlifting. One major drawback is that levels could vary depending on the type of prep methods used and even the beans.
Want a drink loaded with antioxidants? Tea fits the bill! It most notably has epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is believed to be a great fat-burner. With all of that said, don’t forget that caffeine content varies. For example, black tea usually has more caffeine than green tea.
#3 Hot Chocolate
Most people love chocolate. And, with good reason! It has a host of healthy ingredients including the epicatechin antioxidant. Sadly, it also tends to come with loads of sugar. That’s why you should always pick a product that has no less than 70% cocoa to ensure you’re getting more of the good stuff and less of the bad.
#4 Energy Drinks
Want convenience? Energy drinks deliver. Unfortunately, they also tend to offer lots of sugar along with a pretty hefty price tag. If you must drink them, make sure you’re having a sugar-free option.
#5 Canned Chilled Coffee
This is widely available. There is some added protein in this coming from the milk, but most of these also have ample sugar added. It’s hard to really get a precise idea of how much caffeine is in your drink.
#6 Green Tea Extract
It’s true: Green tea has an impact on your metabolism. The bad news is that most companies don’t bother to list how much caffeine is in their green tea extract.
#7 Caffeine Pills
These pills are a fairly cheap way to get your caffeine. This might be the most efficient method of getting your caffeine and you won’t even have to worry over what else could be in it. The drawback is that if you’ve never taken a caffeine pill before, one pill might leave you with the jitters.
If you want to try it, start with small doses.
The Good And The Bad
With all the good and the bad, it’s easy to wonder if it’s right for you. Wonder no more! To sum it up, these are the vast benefits from consuming it as a pre-workout aid.
Sprinters bettered their performance by around 6.5%.
The rate of fatigue dropped by an average of 5%.
Weightlifters boosted their performance by an average of 9.5%.
Strength and power sports athletes saw an improvement of as much as 20%.
Endurance athletes bettered their performance by more than 3%. In fact, some even improved by as much as 17%.
Now for the side effects! It’s only fair. There are a few things to look for.
What are they? We’ve listed the prime ones.
Side Effects of Caffeine
Some of us can metabolize caffeine quickly. Others are not so quick. It truly varies by person. If you’re very sensitive to caffeine, limit your intake. Don’t let it hurt your sleep.
Do you drink coffee? Do you suffer from anxiety? Guess what?
They might be linked. It doesn’t impact everyone. But, you might be one of the people who are affected. Try cutting back. If your worries decrease, you might be onto something.
Caffeine has been found to have a minor diuretic effect. It is believed that this could lead to a state of dehydration. The effect is small.
Still, it’s a good idea to boost your liquid intake when using caffeine. That’s especially the case if you workout in a humid and/or hot place.
#4 It’s Addictive
Yes, caffeine can be addictive. Withdrawal symptoms can occur in those who regularly take more than 200 mg daily.
Symptoms such as cravings, anxiety, depression and headaches could last anywhere from two to nine days. You could ease these symptoms by reducing the amount of caffeine you consume.
When Should You Take It These Top Fat Burners?
As your natural pre-workout supplement, the best time to take it would be roughly one hour before your training session.
The levels of caffeine in your bloodstream tend to peak around one hour to 90 minutes following your consumption.
With that said, you also don’t want to take it so late that it could have an impact on your sleep. For example, if you take a 200 mg dose at 7pm, it will still be in your body when you go to bed at midnight.
Be conscious of that fact!
I can tolerate a strong coffee late at night. But, that could simply be because I’ve become very used to taking it over the years. Everyone is different.
As a side note, you can greatly enhance the fat burning and muscle building effects of caffeine by combining it with a couple of other powerhouses.
That would be whey protein and amino acids. Whey protein is great.
The reason is because it is vital that you get enough protein in your diet when you are training. Protein not only is unlikely to turn into fat, but it also works to boost your metabolism and help you to maintain your muscle tone. Unfortunately, far too many people work out and lose weight quickly, but still end up looking flabby.
Why? They suffer from a lack of protein. Don’t let that happen to you! Get your protein.
Amino acids are somewhat similar to protein. Just adding them to your workout routine can really amp up your efforts to tone your body.
These Are Other Natural Top Fat Burners…
In relation to performance/appearance enhancement, perhaps not seen so much as pre-workout foods, there are some other powerful natural fat burners that deserve a mention.
Take a look at herbs! Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory that also helps to burn fat. It may be one of the best and cheapest herbs! Cayenne pepper is another powerful herb. It has been proven to give metabolism a boost and help burn fat.
Then there are limes and lemons. Don’t be sour. They pack goodness! Squeeze half a lime or lemon into a cup of warm water and it could help to stimulate your liver and improve your digestion.
Again, this could help to lower levels of body fat.
You might also want to look into taking vitamin B.
Why? It can help you get rid of fat. In particular, vitamin B3, also called niacin, has been found to be good at breaking down fats.
Be sure to eat plenty of healthy fats. That means especially those with omega-3. It’s been found that people lose body fat with high healthy fat, as well as good and adequate protein.
An increasingly popular practice for fat loss, and for good reason, is taking a couple of tablespoons of raw, unfiltered, organic apple cider vinegar with or before meals. This also helps digestion.
Lastly, the simple things are always the best. Hydrate with purified water throughout the day.
As a side note though, mealtimes are not the ideal times for too much liquid, as it will dilute your gastric juices.
Putting all these practices together will not only add fuel and life to your workouts, but also turn you into a natural, constant fat burning machine.
You won’t have a need for dangerous stimulants. Try beating that!
-By Keith Cormican, RD