Image Map

keepcalmEveryone seems to get to that point in their weight training where everything gets boring and motivation drop faster than a fat lady with a hole in her parachute.  I have often thought that it would be great to develop a supplement that decreases or eliminates these negative feelings and lack of motivation in training scenarios.  Unfortunately, methamphetamine has negative consequences and doesn’t motivate you to do much eating, so that option is out the window.  We all know that caffeine is a stimulant and gives the body a boost, helping athletes run father and lift more.  But how does it exactly affect the mind? And does it have the power to improve your outlook on going to the gym and enjoyment while lifting?  In the following article I will breakdown a study geared towards answering this exact question.

Psychologists at Leeds Metropolitan University wanted to know more about how caffeine affects the brain.  The researchers corralled 12 cyclists to ride for 90 minutes at 70% of their VO2max.  During one test, the athletes took a placebo an hour before the exercise and during the other test, they took 6mg of caffeine per kg of bodyweight.  I am 81 kgs, so I would be taking 486mgs of caffeine.  Granted, this dose of caffeine would probably send me straight into an anxiety attack.  This dose is high and most people will not be able to take this amount without noted side effects.  I do not recommend taking this amount of caffeine without further accessing your tolerance with lower doses.

guy lifting plateDuring the exercise intervals, and the first hour after the exercise, the subjects were asked how they felt at regular intervals.  They found a pattern.  When asked how tired the athletes were, the caffeine reduced feelings of exhaustion compared to the placebo results (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1

The athletes were also asked to what extent they were experiencing feelings of pleasure.  They discovered that caffeine actually prevented the athletes from negative feelings about the exercise while they were cycling.  Caffeine consistently appeared to make physical exercise more pleasurable, or at least not as unpleasant (Figure 2).  You can see from the picture that once they achieved that “runner’s high,” (or cycler’s high in this case) the caffeine supplementation started to even out with the placebo.  Once the brain started producing it’s own endorphins, the caffeine didn’t have as much of an effect on feelings of pleasure.


Figure 2

The following is a quote from one of the researchers in the study:  “The findings have demonstrated that this supplementation regime was associated with a maintenance effect in relation to feelings of pleasure and lowered perceptions of effort.  The observation of positive subjective effects may partially explain the ergogenic effects of caffeine.”

I find this fascinating.  I like hard data.  Sometimes just knowing something was proven will change my perception of what I may or may be feeling at the moment.  Granted, “feelings of pleasure” is a little hard to measure and hard data is hard to extract from emotions and feelings.  I think that this study is significant enough to take seriously.  My suggestion is to start with 100mgs of Caffeine, pre work out.  Most pre work out formulas contain around 150mgs per serving.  A cup of coffee will be around 60-80mgs.  Two other motivational tips:

1: Take before and after pics, even if you are an experienced athlete.  Set a goal for the month and take a “before” and an “after” pic and compare the progress.  Just this little bit of self-accountability can help give you that extra nudge to get off the couch.  I find that setting shorter goals is easier for me as the task doesn’t seem as daunting when I am only a couple weeks in and I start getting discouraged.

2:  This one might sound obvious but it is important.  Try different workout plans.  Experiment, trust yourself, and be creative.  Google “workout programs” and try some weird shit.  Muscle growth is stimulated by muscular confusion and it can add a little spice to your workouts.  Stop doing the same ol’ routines.  No wonder you would rather lay on your roommate’s old sex ridden couch than get in the squat rack.


How To Stay Motivated