This blog was written by Justin Kline – head coach at Archangel Fitness. Justin is an elite endurance athlete (qualifying for the 2018 XTERRA World Championship) and in this blog he shares with Megaton Nation what he teaches his clients about utilizing caffeine for training and post-race recovery.
Today’s athletes – from the weekend warrior to the professional - have limitless options when it comes to supplements that improve training and race-day performance. But anyone who has ever studied the science of supplements will notice that they all have one ingredient in common: caffeine.
This might seem unusual at first glance. But the answer is simple. Caffeine has a number of properties that are tailor made for improving physical performance. These range from improved usage of stored energy to increased blood flow throughout the body. Here’s what you need to know about why caffeine works, and how I use it to maximize my race-day performance.
Caffeine Increases Blood Flow Around the Body:
Improved blood flow allows more oxygen-filled blood to reach your working muscles. This ultimately allows your muscles to work harder and longer. Each breath you take is essentially more effective because more of the oxygen you are taking in is getting to your muscles. This means you fatigue slower under aerobic conditions.
Caffeine Reduces Your Perception of Pain:
Now hold on to your hats, literally. Caffeine also reduces blood flow in the brain. Yes, I said that right (check out the science here). The reduced blood pressure in the brain also reduces the effect of pain. Hence why many migraine medications have caffeine. So not only can your muscles go harder, you have a reduced RPE (Rate of Perceived Effort) during your workout.
Caffeine Helps You Metabolize Fat for More Energy:
For the endurance athlete, caffeine also helps metabolize fats more efficiently which spares muscle-stored carbs. In effect, this saves your energy for the long events. One study from the Journal of Applied Physiology found that 9.8 mg/lb (4.45 mg/kg, or about 400 mg total) of caffeine increased endurance in athletes. They were able to cover 1.3–2 miles (2–3.2 km) more than the placebo group. In a study of cyclists, caffeine was shown to be superior to carbs or water. It increased work load by 7.4%, compared to 5.2% in the carb group. Another, which combined caffeine and carbs, found improved performance by 9% compared to water alone, and 4.6% compared to carbs alone.
So why coffee? I’m glad you asked. All the supplements available are loaded with ingredients that I can’t pronounce, let alone know what they will do to my body. So, to get caffeine in one of its purest forms, I drink coffee. Depending on what I’m using it for I drink hot coffee, cold coffee, or brick brews. I try not to put anything in my body that I either can’t pronounce or don’t understand its impact on my physical performance.
I recently participated in the Invitational Triathlon (ITT) in Oahu, Hawaii. It was a two-day event that featured a time trial and three total triathlons. Here’s my day by day account of how I used caffeine to maximize my performance:
Day one of the Invitational Triathlon started early with a 5 a.m. wake-up. I started my morning with a nice big cup of Megaton Coffee. Knowing that the effects of coffee are maximized 60 – 90-minutes after consumption… I made sure to wake up exactly 90 minutes before the ITT started (0630). I jumped on my trainer at 0600 and started warming up. At 0630 I took off on my Time Trial (which set the course record). I pushed deep into the red, deeper than I could have before. The effects of Megaton Coffee and the caffeine effects were obvious.
Later that day, there was an Enduro Triathlon. I recovered with nutrition and hydration as any athlete does, but I used my Brick Brew as well. Brick Brew is my own special take on cold-brew which features Coffee, MCT Oil, and Heavy Whipping cream, but I also added some BCAA’s to make it more of a recovery drink to help with muscle repair.
I started out on the Enduro Course with a 1K Run which was followed by two super sprint triathlons smashed together. Each leg of the Enduro Triathlon is short but at a high intensity. You never get a break as you are going at 85 – 90% at all times. The amount of pain is immense. But again, caffeine allowed me to dig deeper than I normally could. I finished the day on top by nearly 4 minutes.
Day two was a Pursuit Triathlon and I followed the same morning routine to get ready. This meant I again downed Megaton Coffee about 90 minutes out from the race start and jumped on the trainer for a quick warm-up. It was like I never stopped. I had such a mental focus, I could feel my pedal stroke mechanics just clicking, and I had a clear mind, not nervous about the race. I was pushing harder on the swim than I had before, and I was riding the redline more than I had before on the bike without it just overwhelming me with fatigue. I even finished the run with a PR for the 5K. It truly was a testament to how a single supplement can affect your race.
More From Coach Justin: