Caffeine Reduces Pain During Exercise, Study Shows

Caffeine Reduces Pain During Exercise, Study Shows

A lot of people are drinking coffee, taking caffeine
before a workout and they don’t realize the actual
benefit, they’re experiencing less pain during the

It’s becoming increasingly common for athletes,
before competing, to consume a variety of
substances that include caffeine, motivated
by the belief that it will help metabolize fat
more efficiently.

Researchers at the University Of Iceland have
been investigating the relationship between
caffeine and physical activity. The research
work initially was focused on exploring
possible links between caffeine intake,
spinal reflexes and physical activity.

Earlier research determined caffeine
works on the adenosine neuromodulatory
system in the brain and spinal cord, and
this system is heavily involved in
nociception and pain processing.

The theory developed that caffeine
blocks adenosine from working,
he speculated that it could reduce pain.

A number of studies support that conclusion,
including investigations considering such
variables as exercise intensity, dose of
caffeine, anxiety sensitivity and gender.

The latest published study on the effects of
caffeine on pain during exercise appears
in the April edition of the International
Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise

The study examines the effects of caffeine
on muscle pain during high-intensity
exercise as a function of habitual caffeine use.

Interestingly, caffeine consumed by individuals
who rarely used it before and habitual users
have the same amount of reduction in pain
during exercise after consumption.

The studies 25 participants were fit, college-aged
males divided into two distinct groups: subjects
whose everyday caffeine consumption was
extremely low to non-existent, and those
with an average caffeine intake of about
400 milligrams a day, the equivalent of
three to four cups of coffee.

After completing an initial exercise test in
the lab on an ergo meter, or stationary cycle,
for determination of maximal oxygen
consumption or aerobic power, subjects
returned for two monitored high-intensity,
30-minute exercise sessions.

An hour prior to each session, cyclists who
had been instructed not to consume caffeine
during the prior 24-hour period were given
a tablet. On one occasion, it contained a dose
of caffeine measuring 5 milligrams per
kilogram of body weight (equivalent to two
to three cups of coffee); the other time,
they received a placebo only.

During both exercise periods, subjects’ perceptions
of quadriceps muscle pain was recorded at regular
intervals, along with data on oxygen consumption,
heart rate and work rate.

If a person regularly consumes caffeine, they
need more to have a bigger, mental-energy
effect. But the tolerance effect is not ubiquitous
across all stimuli. Even brain metabolism
doesn’t show this tolerance-type effect.

That is, with individuals who are habitual
users versus non-habitual users, if you give
them caffeine and do brain imaging, the
activation is identical.

In the future, further research might be able
to determine caffeine’s effect on sport performance.
Although the current research has already shown
that caffeine reduces pain reliably, consistently
during cycling, across different intensities, across
different people, different characteristics…

The next logical question arises about whether
the reduction in pain also translates into an
improvement in sport performance.

For now, the current research could prove
encouraging for a range of people, including
the average person who wants to become
more physically active to realize the health

It’s valuable as a practical application. If
you go to the gym and you exercise and
it hurts, you may be more likely to stop
doing that because pain is an aversive
stimulus that tells you to withdraw.

Giving people caffeine and to reduce the
amount of pain they’re experiencing,
would help them stick with the exercise.
Maybe then they’ll push a little harder as
well and also better adapt to the exercise.

Center for Sport and Health Sciences, Iceland
University of Education.

Get Tough, Stay Tough

Johnny Grube


  1. I always drink coffee before I workout. I worked out doing power lifting for about 14 yrs before I went to High Desert (State Prison CA). At High Desert is where I learned to drink super strong instant coffee before working out. You’d drink it, about 15 mins later you would have to use the silver bullet (toilet), and then workout all day.

    I still to this day drink some strong coffee (but not instant) before I do my workouts. I was powerlifting and got fat after getting out of the joint but have slimmed way down now doing burpees and all bodyweight stuff again.

    Weird how that happened. I am back to pull ups, dips, burpees, situps, leg raises, push ups, mountain climbers etc.

    I have lost 100 pounds since I made these videos:

    I have about 20 more pounds to go.

    When I was at my best shape in the joint I weighed a lean 227. I was walking towards my rack and a black guy asked me how much I weighed. I told em “last time I went to medical (for a tooth to get pulled) I was 227” he said “na man- you gotta weigh at least 250.” But he was wrong. I went back to dental a few wks later and was 228 that day.

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