Caffeine Timing: How Long Before Your Workout Should You Take Caffeine?

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Caffeine Timing: Time Your Pre-Workout for Peak Performance

by: Robbie Durand

You’re headed to the gym and you pop your pre-workout capsules and arrive at the gym 10 minutes later.  You start working out, but guess what?  The optimal levels of caffeine are not in your system yet!

Caffeine timing is not something that many people are familiar with, but your caffeine timing can be the difference between a great and average workout…

The available guidelines for caffeine use suggests that performance benefits can be seen with moderate amounts (~3 mg·kg–1 body mass) of caffeine.  Some of the more extreme caffeine studies have used high doses ranging from 4-6mg/kg bodyweight. The research recommendations are to start out with smaller doses then gradually build your tolerance for caffeine.  Some people are much more tolerant to the effects of caffeine, whereas others can’t handle caffeine.  There is a lot of variability in caffeine tolerance that’s related to your genes.

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A recent study discovered six new genetic variations that play a role in consumption behavior and metabolism of caffeine. Of the six genes discovered, four of these regulate caffeine metabolism and response, while the other two genes are involved in glucose and lipid metabolism. The presence, absence, and any combination of these genes can influence how much coffee an individual needs to drink to achieve their desired caffeine effect. These genetic variations can help explain why caffeine has different effects on different people.

Those that possess more of these genes have better caffeine tolerance and are more likely to consume it – and more of it – compared to those who have fewer genes. People without the genes are more sensitive to caffeine and are likely to get jittery and anxious when they drink it. This is why some people need one cup a day, some need five, and others avoid caffeine altogether.

So let’s examine if you were to start with a moderate dose of caffeine to improve performance.  For example, if you weigh 200 pounds then a moderate dose of caffeine for ~3 mg·kg–1 body mass is 273 mgs of caffeine pre-workout.  To get the conversion, take your bodyweight in pounds and divide it by 2.2 to convert to kg.  Then multiply your weight in kg by three to get the dose. The benefits of caffeine are not just for the person going to the gym, but can also increase performance across a range of sports, including endurance events, stop-and-go events (e.g., team and racquet sports), and sports involving sustained high-intensity activity lasting from 1–60 min (e.g., swimming, rowing, and middle and distance running races). The direct effects of caffeine on strength and power, such as weightlifting, throws, and sprints, are much less clear as opposed to endurance exercise.

Most people take their pre-workout supplements and head to the gym, but depending on how you consume your caffeine will determine when peak concentrations hit your bloodstream. Researchers compared the magnitude and rapidity of peak caffeine levels and subjective effects between coffee and cola.

Thirteen users of both coffee and cola ingested 400 mg caffeine via:

  • 12 oz. unsweetened coffee,
  • 24 oz. sugar-free cola or
  • 2 caffeine capsules

In a random, double blind, placebo-controlled, within-subjects design. Subjects provided a saliva sample and completed subjective effect scales 15 minutes before and 30, 60, 90, 120, 180 and 240 minutes after ingestion. At the end of the study, mean peak saliva caffeine levels did not differ between coffee and cola and appeared to be greater with these beverages than with the capsule. Saliva caffeine levels peaked at similar times for coffee (average time: 42 minutes) and cola (39 minutes) but later for capsule (67 minutes).

So it seems that if you’re taking caffeine in the form of capsules, either from a fat burner or a pre-workout capsule such as Infinite Labs Final Cutz, you’re going to have to take it 60 minutes before exercising for maximal effectiveness. If you’re taking a pre-workout drink, such as Infinite Labs Juggernaut X, you would need to consume it roughly 35-40 minutes before exercise.