Magic beans are the stuff of fairy tales, but as research continues to accumulate on caffeine, we're learning that the coffee bean may be a bit
magical after all. In fact, with ephedrine continually under attack and even pulled off store shelves in countries such as Canada, caffeine may
emerge as the ultimate fat-burning energy-boosting supplement for bodybuilders.
Is caffeine really that good? Can caffeine truly promote fat burning and increase energy? Yes. Check out the following scorecard for the advantages
and benefits that caffeine imparts.
» It's fast-acting.
» It stimulates the nervous system, increases alertness, and enhances mood, energy, strength and endurance.
» It stimulates fat-burning metabolism and the release of fatty acids.
» It can be easily and consistently consumed in a dose that delivers the desired pretraining lift. Since its spike is short-lived, relaxation and
recuperation come quite soon after having used it.
» It's inexpensive, especially if home-brewed.
» It's convenient.
» It's versatile and can be consumed in many ways: in pills and powders, as well as in instant and brewed tea, coffee and coffee drinks. (Although
caffeine is available in sodas, they should be avoided if possible.) Also, some protein drinks/meal-replacement powders (MRPs) can be mixed or
"fortified" with coffee.
» Having been used for a long time by billions of people, caffeine has established a safety record that justifies its role as the most widely used
"drug" in the world.
HOW IT WORKS
We mostly think of caffeine as an ingredient in beverages, particularly coffee, tea and some soft drinks, but many bodybuilders and college students
cramming for exams are familiar with caffeine in pill form. No matter what type you take, caffeine breaks down and stimulates the release of fat.
Caffeine appears to stimulate the adrenal glands to release the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine, in addition to causing the brain to release
dopamine, which in turn enhances fat loss, energy and endurance, as well as mental clarity. That, naturally, gets us going and helps pump up our
metabolisms, which consequently speeds up the rate at which our bodies burn calories. Contrary to the opinions of some supposed health "experts,"
these effects can be obtained without any of the often-proclaimed negatives. In short, it works and it's safe.
A JOLT OF ENERGY FOR THE GYM
Consuming caffeine within the hour and even up to 15 minutes before a workout - either in beverages and/or in pill form - helps the body mobilize and use fatty
acids for fuel. Caffeine stimulates the release of calcium in muscles, which promotes contractions. And research published in Nature in 2002 showed
how caffeine binds to and blocks nerve cells in the "movement center" of the brain (the striatum) that normally inhibit voluntary movements. In other
words, caffeine can make muscle building and fat-burning workouts more effective, increasing the body's use of fat for energy, as well as giving the
mind the focus and motivation and the muscles the capacity to push a little harder and a little longer in the gym.
Caffeine may impart potential fat-loss and energy-enhancing benefits, but it's also been shown to enhance sex drive in men and women, improve one's
sense of well-being and decrease tendencies toward depressive thoughts and behaviors. Pass the Java!
HOW TO USE IT: COMBOS AND ALONE
Many bodybuilders are familiar with caffeine as part of a combination that includes ephedrine and sometimes even aspirin, known as an ECA stack.
Although this combination can deliver a power-packed punch, it also suppresses appetite - a cardinal sin for anyone seriously trying to add or maintain
muscle mass. It can also sap strength. If not carefully used, ECA stacks can lead to overtraining, as well as to irritability and other adverse mental
and psychological effects.
This applies to herbal forms as well. Natural herbal forms of guarana (caffeine), mahuang (ephedrine) and white willow bark (aspirin) are sometimes
used in ECA stacks. Combinations of 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine (equivalent to about 900 mg guarana) mixed with ephedra and white willow bark have
proved to be particularly popular with bodybuilders and other strength/power athletes. This combination of ephedra and caffeine (and occasionally aspirin)
appears in many pills, powders and even sports drinks. Although the ECA combination has been shown in numerous research studies to be safe and effective,
way too many people seem to look the worse for the use - or should we say overuse of these stacks. When taking these combos, it's best to do so only
temporarily generally, no more than three to four weeks at a time before taking a week or two off. Alternatively, you can use them on an irregular - or
sporadic basis. All such product labels are now required to state that consumers shouldn't take them longer than 12 weeks without a break and to use as
little as necessary for a modest boost. Unfortunately, too many trainers go for an "afterburner" effect. The result is that they get burned out. Who
That's yet another reason to use caffeine exclusively. But even with caffeine, a dose of common sense is important. Drinking two entire pots of coffee by
yourself in a day isn't smart! Researchers have typically used doses of 600-800 mg when documenting serious strength and endurance-enhancing effects. We
suggest you begin with 200 mg and see where that takes you.
An eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains 50-100 mg of caffeine. Some darker roasts actually have less caffeine than many lighter roasts; even espresso
doesn't deliver more caffeine, generally, than a regular cup of coffee, although espresso is more concentrated. Many over-the-counter caffeine pills contain
100 mg of the stimulant per pill.
As with ephedrine-containing thermogenics, don't get into a habit of depending on caffeine for your energy or physical capacities. Use common sense. There's
no doubt, however, that if you have problems tolerating ephedrine, caffeine is a safe, serious and good ergogenic alternative. Caffeine also allows most
people to relax and get a good night's sleep after taking a stimulating amount just a few hours before bedtime.
The stimulating fact about caffeine is that it's not "evil." It has, in fact, shown itself to be a , valuable aid for increasing energy, fat loss, and mass
and strength gains. It can help athletes reach higher levels of performance.
As with all stimulants, excessive use will reduce effectiveness. We can't stress that enough. So proceed cautiously, but energetically. Your physique will