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Post-exercise Caffeine Helps Muscles Refuel

By Connie Wan, P.h.D | July 9th, 2019

We all have our recovery routine after exercise.  Maybe yours looks like this: finish workout, eat pasta, wash down with five or six cups of strong coffee, then you are ready to go.  A collaborative research from a group of scientists from several Australian institutes seem to provide a solid scientific support to the routine. 

Glycogen, the muscle’s primary fuel source during exercise, is replenished more rapidly when athletes ingest both carbohydrate and caffeine following exhaustive exercise, Australian research shows. Athletes who ingested caffeine with carbohydrate had 66% more glycogen in their muscles four hours after finishing intense, glycogen-depleting exercise, compared to when they consumed carbohydrate alone, according to the study.

Caffeine aids carbohydrate uptake

It is well established that consuming carbohydrate and caffeine prior to and during exercise improves a variety of athletic performances. Australian study seems to show that caffeine combined with carbohydrates following exercise can also help to refuel the muscle faster post-exercise.

The study was conducted on seven well-trained endurance cyclists who participated in four sessions. The participants first rode a cycle ergometer until exhaustion, and then consumed a low-carbohydrate dinner before going home. This exercise bout was designed to reduce the athletes’ muscle glycogen stores prior to the experimental trial the next day.

The athletes did not eat again until they returned to the lab the next day for the second session when they again cycled until exhaustion. They then ingested a drink that contained carbohydrate alone or carbohydrate plus caffeine (the equivalent of 5-6 cups of strong coffee) and rested in the laboratory for four hours. During this post-exercise rest time, the researchers took several muscle biopsies and multiple blood samples to measure the amount of glycogen being replenished in the muscle, along with the concentrations of glucose-regulating metabolites and hormones in the blood, including glucose and insulin.

The entire two-session process was repeated 7-10 days later. The only difference was that this time, the athletes drank the beverage that they had not consumed in the previous trial. (That is, if they drank the carbohydrate alone in the first trial, they drank the carbohydrate plus caffeine in the second trial, and vice versa.)

The drinks looked, smelled and tasted the same and both contained the same amount of carbohydrate. Neither the researchers nor the cyclists knew which regimen they were receiving, making it a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment.

Glucose and insulin levels higher with caffeine ingestion

The researchers found the following:

  • one hour after exercise, muscle glycogen levels had replenished to the same extent whether or not the athlete had the drink containing carbohydrate and caffeine or carbohydrate only
  • four hours after exercise, the drink containing caffeine resulted in 66% higher glycogen levels compared to the carbohydrate-only drink
  • throughout the four-hour recovery period, the caffeinated drink resulted in higher levels of blood glucose and plasma insulin
  • several signaling proteins believed to play a role in glucose transport into the muscle were elevated to a greater extent after the athletes ingested the carbohydrate-plus-caffeine drink, compared to the carbohydrate-only drink

It is noted that the responses to caffeine ingestion vary widely between individuals.  Athletes who want to incorporate caffeine into their workouts should experiment during training sessions well in advance of an important competition to find out what works for them.  

For a quick post-exercise recover regime, check out Energon Qube Post-Workout Recover gummies(which packs a specially designed restorative combination of herbs, vitamin Bs and carbohydrates) with Mocca Shots high caffeine gummies(1 packs = 2 cups of coffee).  They are also all natural, vegan, and non-GMO too.

Thanks for reading.

Journal Reference:

David J. Pedersen et al. High rates of muscle glycogen resynthesis after exhaustive exercise when carbohydrate is co-ingested with caffeineJournal of Applied Physiology, 01 JUL 2008