Crank Up Your Workout Recovery With Caffeine
Caffeine cuts post-workout pain by nearly 50 percent, study
it’s too soon to recommend dropping by Starbucks before
hitting the gym, a new study suggests that caffeine
can help reduce the post-workout soreness that discourages
some people from exercising.
In a study to be published in the February issue of The
Journal of Pain, a team of University of Georgia researchers
finds that moderate doses of caffeine, roughly equivalent to
two cups of coffee, cut post-workout muscle pain by up to 48
percent in a small sample of volunteers.
Lead author Victor Maridakis, a researcher in the department
of kinesiology at the UGA College of Education, said the
findings may be particularly relevant to people new to
exercise, since they tend to experience the most soreness.
“If you can use caffeine to reduce the pain, it may make it
easier to transition from that first week into a much longer
exercise program,” he said.
Maridakis and his colleagues studied nine female college
students who were not regular caffeine users and did not
engage in regular resistance training. One and two days
after an exercise session that caused moderate muscle
soreness, the volunteers took either caffeine or a
placebo and performed two different quadriceps (thigh)
exercises, one designed to produce a maximal force, the
other designed to generate a sub-maximal force. Those that
consumed caffeine one-hour before the maximum force test had
a 48 percent reduction in pain compared to the placebo
group, while those that took caffeine before the sub-maximal
test reported a 26 percent reduction in pain.
Caffeine has long been known to increase alertness and
endurance, and a 2003 study led by UGA professor Patrick
O’Connor found that caffeine reduces thigh pain during
moderate-intensity cycling. O’Connor, who along with
professors Kevin McCully and the late Gary Dudley
co-authored the current study, explained that caffeine
likely works by blocking the body’s receptors for adenosine,
a chemical released in response to inflammation.
Despite the positive findings in the study, the researchers
say there are some caveats. First, the results may not be
applicable to regular caffeine users, since they may be less
sensitive to caffeine’s effect. The researchers chose to
study women to get a definitive answer in at least one sex,
but men may respond differently to caffeine. And the small
sample size of nine volunteers means that the study will
have to be replicated with a larger study.
O’Connor said that despite these limitations, caffeine
appears to be more effective in relieving post-workout
muscle pain than several commonly used drugs. Previous
studies have found that the pain reliever naproxen (the
active ingredient in Aleve) produced a 30 percent reduction
in soreness. Aspirin produced a 25 percent reduction, and
ibuprofen has produced inconsistent results.
“A lot of times what people use for muscle pain is aspirin
or ibuprofen, but caffeine seems to work better than those
drugs, at least among women whose daily caffeine consumption
is low,” O’Connor said.
Still, the researchers recommend that people use caution
when using caffeine before a workout. For some people, too
much caffeine can produce side effects such as jitteriness,
heart palpitations and sleep disturbances.
“It can reduce pain,” Maridakis said, “but you have to apply
some common sense and not go overboard.”
Source - University of Georgia, USA