Post-exercise Caffeine Helps Muscles Refuel

We all have our recovery routine after exercise. Does the following sound familiar: finish working out, eat a healthy snack, and wash down with five or six cups of strong coffee, and BOOM you’re ready to go. Not only does consuming caffeine after working out help keep you awake, but it is also shown to help you recover faster!

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

Caffeine aids carbohydrate uptake

It is well established that consuming carbohydrates and caffeine before and during exercise improves performance. This 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. The exercise bout was designed to reduce the athletes’ muscle glycogen stores before the experimental trial the next day.

The athletes did not eat again until they returned to the lab 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 are 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 among 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 recovery regime, check out Energon Qube Post-Workout Recover gummies (which pack a specially designed restorative combination of herbs, vitamin Bs and carbohydrates) with Mocca Shots high caffeine gummies (1 pack = 2 cups of coffee).  They are also , plant-based, 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