Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Small amount of caffeine gives strength athlete better grip on weights

During long weights sets where you go for the burn in your calves or lower arms and also exercises where you may lose your grip on the weights, pain is a limiting factor. A low dose of caffeine can help here.

Small amount of caffeine gives strength athlete better grip on weights

Caffeine raises metabolism slightly. It increases the production of natural stimulants like adrenalin and noradrenalin, and makes cells more sensitive to these. Whats less known is that caffeine also has an indirect painkilling effect. In athletes at least, caffeine boosts the production of beta-endorphin, a natural painkiller.


A study done by researchers at Yale University in 2000 demonstrated this effect on fit young men who were given a fairly high dose of caffeine: 6 mg per kg bodyweight. [J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Jun;85(6):2170-5.] If you weigh 80 kg then this amounts to 480 mg. An hour-and-a-half after intake the men cycled for 2 hours at 65 percent of their VO2 max that's so fast that you can't talk comfortably at the same time.

The researchers discovered that the stimulant enhanced the production of beta-endorphin.

Small amount of caffeine gives strength athlete better grip on weights

On the basis of the older study you'd expect that caffeine would also help strength athletes to reduce pain during training. So they gave 5 men and 5 women chewing gum containing 100 mg caffeine that is absorbed quickly. The researchers used a product that is on the market in the US: Stay Alert.

The researchers did not measure their test subjects' daily intake of ordinary caffeine. But according to recent research this is not a factor in the painkilling effect of caffeine during sport sessions. [Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2009 Apr;19(2):150-61.]

The researchers got their subjects to stand up straight and hold weights with outstretched arms until they gradually lost their grip. They had to try and hold on to the weights for as long as possible. The researchers repeated the experiment twice. On one occasion the subjects chewed caffeine gum, and on the other they didn't. The figure below shows the amount of pain the subjects reported.

Small amount of caffeine gives strength athlete better grip on weights

When they weren't chewing gum the subjects let go after 100 seconds; when they did chew gum they let go after 105 seconds. The difference was not significant, however. The number of test subjects was too small and their muscle power range was also too large.

Small amount of caffeine gives strength athlete better grip on weights

"Many activities that are involved in strength and conditioning require that an object such as an Olympic bar, kettle bell, or other equipment be held for a number of repetitions", the researchers conclude.

"The findings of this study suggest that small amounts of caffeine can reduce the discomfort associated with holding onto an object as the small muscles in the forearm become fatigued."

J Strength Cond Res. 2011 May;25(5):1225-8.

Why a touch of caffeine makes your pre-workout shake more effective 27.11.2013
Better strength training and less muscle pain after three cups of coffee 28.10.2013
If caffeine makes you feel like crying, it also makes you stronger 28.09.2010

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