As athletes, it is your job to ensure that you keep your body in peak physical condition, for much of the same reasons as a workman would be expected to keep his tools in great condition. Your body is what earns you your living so naturally you need to be very careful about what you do, and do not, put into it. For example, when you’re training for an event, you obviously won’t be consuming vast quantities of junk food and alcohol, you will instead be eating healthy and nutritious foods, all washed down with plenty of water and specially formulated sports drinks. In terms of athletic performance, as well as training and following a diet rich in nutrients, athletes from all over the globe, are also benefitting from specially formulated sports supplements, with each one having been designed to serve its own unique purpose. For example: With bodybuilders and strength athletes, whey protein is ideal as it promotes increases in muscle mass and strength. For individuals looking to burn fat, fat burners are ideal, yet there is one supplement that is also a naturally occurring compound, that is vastly underused and underappreciated, and that supplement is caffeine. Caffeine is actually a natural pesticide found in the leaves and seeds of plants – tea and coffee plants for example. When we consume it however, it acts as a natural stimulant and provides a number of benefits in the process, particularly if you happen to be an athlete or physically active. Some of the main benefits associated with caffeine include:
Improved physical performance
One of the main benefits associated with caffeine, is the fact that as the stimulant is so potent, it is able to stimulate the nervous system and provide a very noticeable and very dramatic improvement in physical performance. One of the main reasons for this is that caffeine has been found to enhance epinephrine levels within the blood, Epinephrine, or adrenalin as you may know it as, is a powerful hormone that is responsible for our “fight or flight” response. This basically gets the body prepared for bouts of intense physical exertion, greatly providing an increase in natural energy levels. One of the main reasons for this is that it takes our fat cells in our bodies, and actually breaks them down, converting them into energy which can be used as fuel for the muscles. The more energy and fuel you have, the harder you can push yourself during intense physical exercise. On average, caffeine consumption before an event can increase physical performance by as much as 12% on average, sometimes even more than that. This increase in adrenal levels, along with the conversion of body fat to energy, can greatly increase and enhance physical performance.
Let’s face it, as athletes, there are no real benefits associated with being overweight, which is why it’s very rare that you see athletes from any walk of life, with higher than average body fat levels. Another fantastic benefit associated with caffeine, is the fact that it can provide very dramatic fat loss results, making it perfect for people trying to burn fat and lose weight. As mentioned, the main reason for this is down to the fact that caffeine can draw fat out of our fat cells and allow the body to use it as a readily available source of energy. This is beneficial because, not only is fat being burnt off, but, as it is being burnt off, it is being used to provide an increase in energy. The more energy you have, the more physically active you can become, thus making your workouts far more productive and beneficial. This also increases the metabolism, even in a rested state so that you burn more calories on a daily basis, and find it tougher to gain body fat as a result. When you read the ingredients found in many fat-burning supplements, often you will see caffeine as one of the main active ingredients.
As well as ensuring you perform at your best whilst you exercise and train, another very critical component of any athletic workout regime is the recovery process, and it is often this process that is overlooked and underappreciated. When you exercise and push yourself, you are destroying your muscle tissues and fibres, which is why you ache and feel so sore after exercising. In order for the muscles to grow and repair themselves ready for the next training session, they need access to the right nutrients, which is where caffeine really comes into the mix. Caffeine has been heavily linked with being able to provide substantial benefits to the body following intense physical activity. In a number of studies, experts have found that, several hours following a workout, muscle glycogen stores can increase by as much as 70% by simply consuming a beverage or supplement containing caffeine. Glycogen can greatly expedite post-workout recovery, thus speeding up the process and ensuring the body is optimally primed for working out the very next day.
Enhanced mental focus
As well as physical energy, another essential component of any exercise and fitness regime is mental focus, and that is where people are often let down. If your head isn’t in the game, as it were, you simply will not be able to perform at your best, no matter how hard you’ve been training. Caffeine is incredibly beneficial because numerous studies have found that it can greatly increase mental stamina and focus. Say for example, that you’re about to compete in an athletic event but you can’t seem to think straight. Rather than focussing on your strategy and on nothing but the event, you instead find yourself thinking about other things and not being able to concentrate, you obviously won’t perform at your best on the running track, or sports field, or gym or anywhere else for that matter. Your mind needs to be focussed on the tasks that lie ahead, so that instead of thinking about what to watch on the TV when you get home, you instead think about how you can win your race and actually visualise yourself winning, as opposed to doubting yourself.