The initial results from a new study have suggested that caffeine may have the effects of lessening the pain from intense exercise. From MSNBC.com
That cup of coffee that many gym rats, bikers and runners swill before a workout does more than energize them. It kills some of the pain of athletic exertion, a new study suggests. And it works regardless of whether a person already had a coffee habit or not.
The study looked at how caffeine helps to block a certain biochemical that is important in pain processing.
Caffeine works on a system in the brain and spinal cord (the adenosine neuromodulatory system) that is heavily involved in pain processing, says University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Robert Motl. And since caffeine blocks adenosine, the biochemical that plays an important role in energy transfer and thus exercise, he speculated that it could reduce pain.
What they found was that the caffeine did in fact help with reducing the pain of exercise, both in people who regularly drank coffee or caffeine filled drinks, and in those who didn’t. Details of the study:
An hour prior to each session, cyclists — who had been instructed not to consume caffeine during the prior 24-hour period — were given a pill. 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.
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.
“What we saw is something we didn’t expect,” Motl said. “Caffeine-naïve individuals and habitual users have the same amount of reduction in pain during exercise after caffeine (consumption).”
So what is the conclusion that they’ve reached, and what is the practical application?
We’ve shown that caffeine reduces pain reliably, consistently during cycling, across different intensities, across different people, different characteristics. One of the things that may be a practical application, is if you go to the gym and you exercise and it hurts, you may be prone to stop doing that because pain is an aversive stimulus that tells you to withdraw,” Motl said. “So if we could give people a little caffeine and reduce the amount of pain they’re experiencing, maybe that would help them stick with that exercise.
So drink up! Starbucks here we come!