Now, just because you could, it doesn’t mean you should…let me explain.
Pedersen et al (2008) wanted to see if adding in high amounts of caffeine post depleting exercise would be beneficial for muscle glycogen replenishment, i.e. the amount of carbs stored in muscle.
We know from previous research and experience, that a lack of carbohydrates in the diet and stored in the muscle (carb availability) is limiting to performance. Generally speaking, the rate at which you replenish your carb stores has next to zero relevance for general population.
However, if you’re competing in multiple events over a few days where you need ultra-fast recovery, this is where we need to apply the gas and make sure you’re fully recovered with a tight turnaround.
We know that you get accelerated rates of glycogen replenishment within the first 4 hours of depleting exercise; therefore, it is always pragmatic to take advantage of this period. What we also know from the aforementioned study is that consuming caffeine alongside the same amounts of carbs actually increases hourly glycogen replenishment by 66%.
You’d think that this is a huge winner for replenishment…which I’d agree, it is. But, they had to consume 8mg/kg/bw to achieve this – half the dose immediately post, and the other half at 2 hours post.
To put this into context, that would be 800mg of caffeine for a 100kg rugby player or 560mg for a 70kg cyclist. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s a fucking lot of caffeine.
We also need to consider that athletes use high amounts of caffeine pre competition, and perhaps throughout. The problem here is that they may replenish carbs quicker, but they will absolutely destroy their sleep quality which in return making their performance worse the next day.
Granted, this is a trade-off…but sometimes what’s found in research isn’t practical in real life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very cool to know, but not always applicable.
So, the next time someone tells you that caffeine accelerates recovery…it does, but at the same time it probably doesn’t.
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