We all need a wake-me-up sometimes - in the morning, before a workout, or sometimes just to get the productivity juices flowing. You'll be happy to hear that some experts have shown that caffeine doesn't have any bad side effects, for most people, if used in a smart manner. Let's break it down.
Mike provides the best advice that I have read when it comes to caffeine in his books Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger as well as on his podcast, Muscle for Life. In an episode called Making a Good Supplement, Mike goes into how caffeine is not nearly as dangerous as everyone makes it seem and suggests that if your daily intake does not go over around 400mg, there are no serious risks for the average active person.
Being a supplement formulator for his company Legion Athletics, he also advocates the use of caffeine and provides it in his pre-workout as well as recommends taking it with his fat loss supplements because of how it increases your performance, fat loss, and strength.
Lastly, Mike suggests to play it smart and preserve your tolerance by using caffeine sparingly, only before your hardest workouts or, if you take it daily, to take a week off every 2-3 weeks.
There are definitely a couple factoids that stuck with me from Shawn's book, Sleep Smarter. He has an entire chapter on the topic called Have a Caffeine Curfew. Shawn states how caffeine can be beneficial to increase your cortisol levels in the morning, "increase alertness and focus, and even improve liver function if used the right way (Sleep Smarter - p. 34)." The key words here are "if used the right way."
At the start of the chapter, he talks about a study done by Christopher Drake, PhD and professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences, and how it shows that having a cup of coffee as much as 6 hours before bedtime causes you to lose an hour of sleep without you feeling a difference in sleep quality psychologically. Shawn explains that the half-life of caffeine is between 5 and 8 hours. To explain what this means, if we said the half-life was 6 hours and you consumed 200mg of caffeine at 4:00 PM, you still have 100mg at work in your system at 10:00 PM.
To avoid the negative effects of caffeine, Shawn suggests the following:
In Ben's New York Times Bestselling Book, Beyond Training, he stays more on the hazardous side of caffeine, stating that it can stunt muscle growth, cause adrenal fatigue, and overwork your central nervous system. The one positive thing he states is that 100mg of caffeine has proven to increase memory recall (Beyond Training - p. 438). But when it comes to performance, Ben suggests limiting your intake as much as possible and simply getting the sleep your body needs instead.
I know there is a bit of mixed information here, but these are all experts who back their suggestions up with quality research. The biggest takeaway from this would be to take advantage of these tips from Mike, Shawn, and Ben:
Overall, I believe that caffeine can be very useful but realize that if you need it, it probably means you are lacking the adequate sleep your body needs. Enjoy its benefits but be smart about it.
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