There does not seem to be an advantage to cycling caffeine to get a performance advantage. You can have your caffeine daily and still get performance benefits; however, too much caffeine can negatively affect performance
Caffeine anhydrous positively affects muscle endurance, strength, and power outcomes.
Higher dosages of caffeine (i.e., >6mh/kg/bw) did not have ergogenic effects. Dosages of <3 mg/kg/bw and 2-6mg/kg/bw seemed to be the sweet spot for performance enhancement.
Larger dosages of caffeine can cause more side effects, which result in decreased performance.
DIFFERENT FORMS OF CAFFEINE
Everyone knows that caffeine is a naturally occurring compound found in coffee beans, coffee, and tea but is also found in chocolate (i.e., cacao). Norway, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden appear to be the biggest consumers of caffeine, with intakes from coffee at over 300mg/person/day.
Most pre-workouts contain a pure caffeine powder called caffeine anhydrous. Potent forms of caffeine can be found in expresso, guarana, and energy drinks. So what’s the difference? Traditional coffee and tea is a naturally occurring caffeine that tends to be slower absorbing. Caffeine anhydrous, a highly potent, synthetic form of caffeine, is not naturally occurring.
Benefits of Caffeine Anhydrous
By definition, Caffeine Anhydrous is dehydrated coffee. Anhydrous means contains no water. This makes for a crystalline form of caffeine that can be turned into a powder. Caffeine anhydrous is very popular in the fitness supplement industry and is commonly found in dietary supplements such as fat burners, pre-workout powders, and other mental enhancement products.
Caffeine anhydrous is a highly concentrated form of caffeine compared to caffeine in coffee. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently banned pure powdered caffeine powders in certain countries due to lethal overdoses of caffeine. Excessively high doses of caffeine can lead to an irregular heartbeat and seizures.
FDA and Caffeine
The FDA estimates toxic effects, like seizures, can be observed with rapid consumption of around 1,200 milligrams of caffeine, or 0.15 tablespoons of pure caffeine. For healthy adults, the FDA has recommended less than 400 mg of caffeine per day or less than four cups of coffee per day. Less than 400 mgs of caffeine is generally not associated with dangerous, negative effects.
On the FDA’s website about safe dosages of caffeine. It states, “Just one teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine can contain the same amount of caffeine as 28 cups of coffee, and a half cup of a liquid highly concentrated caffeine product contains the equivalent of more than 20 cups of coffee. These are toxic amounts that can have serious health consequences, including death.”
CAFFEINE DOSAGE EFFECTS
The stimulating effects of pre workouts with high caffeine seem to dwindle after weeks as the user becomes habituated to the dose of caffeine. Some have suggested that you should cycle caffeine for the best results. Most users know caffeine is highly addictive, and withdrawals include fatigue, headaches, and mood disturbances. A new study in the Journal of Sports Medicine, which analyzed over 60 studies, including 1,137 total participants (957 males and 178 females).
CAFFEINE ANHYDROUS DOSAGE
The massive study analyzed different dosages of caffeine (i.e., <3 mg/kg/bw, 3-6 mg/kg/bw, >6 mg/kg/bw) and caffeine withdrawal periods to determine if performance was impacted by withdrawal. Caffeine positively affected muscle endurance, strength, and power outcomes.
Higher dosages of caffeine (i.e., >6mh/kg/bw) did not have ergogenic effects. Dosages of <3 mg/kg/bw and 2-6mg/kg/bw seemed to be the sweet spot for performance enhancement. Larger dosages of caffeine can cause more side effects, which result in decreased performance.
Anyone who has ever taken too much caffeine has felt the caffeine jitters and sweats, which can negatively decrease performance. Here is the good news: There was no significant effect of habitual caffeine consumption and the ergogenic effects of caffeine. This means periods of caffeine withdrawal did not result in any sports performance increases compared to the athletes that continuously used caffeine daily. So, based on the research, there does not seem to be an advantage to cycling caffeine to get a performance advantage. You can have your caffeine daily and still get performance benefits; however, too much caffeine can negatively affect performance.(1)
TOO MUCH CAFFEINE MAY BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE TO EXERCISE PERFORMANCE
Caffeine is a double-edged sword; the right amount can increase alertness, strength, and power, but too much can increase cortisol. Excess cortisol is a catabolic hormone that reduces protein synthesis and prevents muscle tissue growth.
A recent study examined the impact of various doses of caffeine on cortisol. The subjects performed heavy resistance exercise and used either: a high dose (6 mg.kg), medium dose (4 mg.kg), low dose (LD, 2 mg.kg), and placebo. Check out the dosage calculator to see what comes out per lb of body weight. For example, for a 200 lb person, 4 mg/kg of body weight comes out to 362 mg of caffeine.
At the end of the study, fat mobilization increased in all groups, but the high-dose caffeine group had a big increase in cortisol, whereas the moderate and low-dose groups did not. Therefore, your pre-workout must have the right caffeine dose in conjunction with ingredients to promote anabolic actions and limit cortisol production.
There is nothing wrong with your morning cup of coffee or your daily pre-workout, but a strong pre-workout with too much caffeine can cause an irregular heart beat, and negatively affect anabolic hormones and sleep quality. Be aware of how much caffeine and caffeine-related products you are consuming per day. Keep caffeine at a dose that is best for you.
Caffeine Anhydrous Recommendations
It generally takes your body about six hours to remove about half of the caffeine in your system (3). However, this does not mean that after 12 hours, all the caffeine in your body is gone. In some cases, depending on your genetics and lifestyle, it can take 24 hours to completely remove caffeine from your system.
CAFFEINE VS COFFEE FOR PERFORMANCE
Studies have shown that both coffee and caffeine have similar effects on performance.(4) Caffeine dosages in research studies are in the ranges of 0 to 300 mg/day. It does not seem to matter if you drink coffee or take caffeine on a regular basis; acute caffeine ingestion improved all performance measures regardless of habitual caffeine intake. Even low doses of caffeine (i.e., 1-2 cups of coffee have been found to increase aerobic and resistance exercise performance. (6) Caffeine peaks in the system within 30- 60 minutes, so this is the optimal time to drink coffee or a pre-workout to maximize its effects. (7)
1. Carvalho A, Marticorena FM, Grecco BH, Barreto G, Saunders B. Can I Have My Coffee and Drink It? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis to Determine Whether Habitual Caffeine Consumption Affects the Ergogenic Effect of Caffeine. Sports Medicine. 2022.
3. Graham, T. E., Hibbert, E., & Sathasivam, P. (1998). Metabolic and exercise endurance effects of coffee and caffeine ingestion. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 85(3), 883–889. https://doi.org/10.1152/jappl.19188.8.131.523
4. Hodgson AB, Randell RK, Jeukendrup AE. The metabolic and performance effects of caffeine compared to coffee during endurance exercise. PLoS One. 2013;8(4):e59561. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059561. Epub 2013 Apr 3. PMID: 23573201; PMCID: PMC3616086
5. Harty, P. S., Zabriskie, H. A., Stecker, R. A., Currier, B. S., Tinsley, G. M., Surowiec, K., Jagim, A. R., Richmond, S. R., & Kerksick, C. M. (2020). Caffeine Timing Improves Lower-Body Muscular Performance: A Randomized Trial. Frontiers in nutrition, 7, 585900.