Caffeine as a Supplement

Click aquí para ver este artículo en español

Hey Life Warriors!

Caffeine is one of the most consumed substances in the world. We can find it in a multitude of drinks, supplements and even isolated in pills. Its benefits are multiple, but we have to understand its operating mechanisms very well in order to get the most out of it. In this article we will explain what caffeine is, how it works, what benefits it has and how to use caffeine as a supplement.

What is caffeine?

Caffeine is an alkaloid compound discovered in 1819 by the German chemist Fiedrich Ferdinand Runge, who named it Kaffein, as it is present in coffee. This compound is also present in other plants such as tea or guarana, which has given rise to other names (tein, matein, guaranin). However, it is the same molecule. In humans, caffeine acts as a stimulant to the nervous system, which leads to different effects that we are going to explain.

(molecule image) From Mstroeck at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

How does caffeine work?

Caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors. Our body uses ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) for energy, resulting in ADP (adenosine di-phosphate). As we use more energy, and therefore more ATP, the number of ADP molecules in our body increases. These molecules are deposited in receptors, and the more ADP molecules are deposited, the more tired we feel. Caffeine has a structure similar to that of ADP and is also deposited in these receptors, giving our body the impression that they are empty, and therefore we are not tired. In addition, this inhibition of adenosine receptors can influence the release of adrenaline, dopamine and acetylcholine, which produces other interesting effects that we will tell you about below.

The mechanism is very well explained in this video:

Caffeine as a pre-workout

According to this article from the International Society of Sports Nutrition , caffeine produces an increase in sports performance when taken before activity, this effect being greater when caffeine is taken in anhydrous form (as it comes in pre-workout supplements) than when consumed through coffee or tea. We also see in the article that, to maximize its effect, we must take it between 30 and 45 minutes before training.

Its effects range from reducing fatigue to increasing muscle strength and endurance, allowing us to perform more intense and demanding workouts. Caffeine has also been shown to increase aerobic exercise performance.

If you train early in the morning (as is our case) you will see that a pre-workout supplement will not only help you increase the intensity of your training, but it will also put you in the optimal state of mind to do it, thanks to its influence on dopamine and adrenaline. However, you must be careful with the use of caffeine if you train in the afternoon, since its effects remain in your body for hours and can affect the quality of your sleep.

Caffeine as a supplement

Caffeine as a fat burner

As we can see in this study, caffeine increases the oxidation of body fat after consuming a moderate dose and exercising while fasting. This effect is greater when the level of training of the people who take it is medium or low. It is important to note that if this is the effect we are looking for, it is necessary to train; caffeine alone will not burn fat.

Caffeine as an aid to concentration

At the beginning of this article, we explained how the inhibition of adenosine receptors has an effect on the release of dopamine, adrenaline and acetylcholine. These compounds help us increase our alertness, our level of attention and our concentration. However, it does not have a large effect on more complex mental functions such as memory or decision making, as we see in this review .

Where is caffeine found?

We can find caffeine in different foods (coffee, tea, chocolate…). However, both the amounts and the form in which caffeine is present in these foods varies substantially. This is the caffeine content of the most common drinks:

  • A cup of coffee (250ml): between 90mg and 150mg depending on the way of preparation
  • A cup of tea (250ml): between 20mg and 60mg depending on the type of tea
  • A can of cola (330ml) contains 36mg of caffeine.
  • A 500ml can of energy drink contains between 145mg and 180mg depending on the brand
  • A pre-workout dose usually has between 150mg and 200mg of caffeine.

How much caffeine can I take?

The recommended daily dose of caffeine depends on many factors such as age, body weight and how accustomed we are to its consumption. If you are not used to drinking caffeine on a regular basis, we recommend that you start on the lower side of the range and only go up if you need it. In general, it is considered that doses of between 3mg and 6mg per kilo of weight per day are safe and do not harm health. In a 70kg person this would equate to between 210mg and 420mg, so there is quite a bit of margin.

Is caffeine addictive?

Although caffeine is not addictive in the strict sense of the word, it can cause you to become habituated and need an increasingly higher dose to achieve the same effect, as explained in the video. Sometimes, certain disorders also occur when interrupting its consumption, so we once again advise you a prudent approach. Personally, I have been taking caffeine in the form of pre-workout supplements (about 200mg) for many years and they have always worked well for me. At best, a little sleep on days I don’t take them.

In short, caffeine is one of the few proven and proven supplements that can bring you many benefits if you understand how it works and use it logically and prudently.

We hope this information has been useful to you. If you have any specific questions, we’ll read you in the comments.

Leave a Reply