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Caffeine and training
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By Brian Adzima
From the Paris of Appalachia
Feb 18, 2013
somewhere in WV
I have been a big fan of hot tea on cold morning bouldering sessions, but today I tried just straight caffeine in pill form after reading a few articles on its use in weight lifting. The results were pretty impressive, I got in about 150% of the amount of climbing I usually do. I was a little more jittery than I would like, but I suspect I can dial in the dose a little better. This is definitely going to be of limited utility because chocolate or tea after 1:00 PM keeps me up all night, but I am encouraged for now.

I couldn't find any threads focused on caffeine and climbing, so I wondered what other people's experience has been.

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By Dana Bartlett
From CT
Feb 18, 2013
There may not be any threads about caffeine and climbing. But if you go to PubMed, you will probably find a fair amount of journal articles about the benefits/drawbacks of caffeine and athletic performance. Good luck.

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By Brasky
Feb 18, 2013
theres a climb in the gunks called caffine and carbs so they must have known somethin about it before this thread haha

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By kenr
Feb 21, 2013
Thanks for the idea of taking it in pills - I just ordered some. So I can reserve drinking actual coffee for times when I really want the taste.

I long have been using caffeine for my short+intense training workouts for uphill on foot or skis or bicycles (as do lots of other people). But normally not for my actual tours, because they take like three hours of more - and I've heard there are studies showing that caffeine doesn't help for performance longer than hour.

When I started climbing, I started using caffeine again for home indoor training workouts. Not because I had any evidence that it should work for that, but psychlogically I felt I wanted all the help I could get with my new sport.

So with climbing, since lots of my outdoor efforts are shorter duration, maybe caffeine could help with actual performance?
Another new idea for me.

Ken

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By Frank F
From Bend, OR
Feb 22, 2013
Some years ago I replaced my morning cup of coffee with a cup of tea on climbing days so that I would lower the potential for feeling nervous or getting the shakes when working through hard moves. In those days I was working up through the grades at the Gunks where I ran into a lot of thin face moves that required steady footwork on small holds. I still feel better climbing in the morning with less caffeine. And Carbs and Caffeine, despite its name, is a fine route that I can handle on carbs alone.

At the same time, Iím now doing more climbing in western states on longer and alpine routes. This spring, I noticed my partner gulping down a 5 Hour Energy drink mid-day. I tried it and found that I like the boost late in the day, especially on routes with long descents and slogs back to camp. I don't know if there's much benefit from the b vitamins and other stuff in it, but in contrast to a pill I figure the little extra liquid can't hurt.

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By Simon Thompson
From New Paltz, NY
Feb 22, 2013
For long marathon climbing days I love to drink a Gatorade down to the label and then pour in a fine $.99 Stewart's energy drink. I call it jet fuel. Nice to have in the pack for before the last few pitches, the descent, or whenever I need that extra kick in the ass.

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By Ben Brotelho
From Albany, NY
Feb 22, 2013
Epic free solo with a pack on
I can attest as to the quality of the Jet-Fuel

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By Will S
From Joshua Tree
Feb 22, 2013
I'll offer this without commentary, a blurb from some writings on Oly style lifting/Bulgarian method:

"For this system to work it is absolutely critical that you understand what Ďdaily maximumí means. In most programs you see, the 1RM is based on a contest max ó the best you can do up on the platform. A contest max means meet-nerves, adrenaline, and the whole psych-up of lifing in front of a crowd. A gym-lift canít approach that kind of mental intensity.

The Russians found that the psychological arousal of a competition max can add as much as 10% to a lifterís best in the gym. All you guys that need to tank up on caffeine and ephedrine and geranamine, pay attention here: when you rely on stimulants and loud music and yelling to get through your session, youíre emulating that contest max, including all the staleness and CNS burn-out that comes with it. If you do this on the Bulgarian system, you will die. Muscles recover much faster than the system-wide disruption you cause when you get riled up to blast yourself with maximum sets. Respect that and you can lift as often as you want."

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By kenr
Feb 22, 2013
Thanks for the caution.
Not sure what "tank up on caffeine" means.

Surely there's lots and lots of amateur runners and cyclists and cross-country ski racers gulping down a cup or two of strong coffee before a performance event or an intense workout. But I haven't heard hardly any stories of system-wide disruption or CNS burnout from doing that.

I guess a danger with taking caffeine in pill form is that it's much easier to ingest way more than one or two cups of coffee. I did once read about a racer who was detected (and barred from competition) with an amazingly high blood concentration of caffeine.

Maybe I could be tempted to pop just one more. And one more?
Have to think about that.

Ken

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By AGParker
From San Angelo, TX
Feb 22, 2013
Caffeine definitely helps, particularly with endurance activities. The recommended dose is 3-5 mg per kg of body weight. There is no added benefit from consuming more than that. Caffeine anhydrous (pill form) is more effective than caffeine from coffee or tea. You can get 50, 200 mg pills at Walmart for about $5. I'm not sure how caffeine would affect climbing specific performance, but it would likely help with mountaineering and long approaches.

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By kenr
Feb 23, 2013
AGParker wrote:
Caffeine definitely helps, particularly with endurance activities.

I think there's some trickiness with the word "endurance". Lots of people think endurance is anything more than 10 or 15 minutes. Like running 3 miles / 5km is "endurance" in lots of people's minds. And I've heard there's lots of evidence that caffeine helps for performances of 30 minutes.

But I've heard there's also evidence that caffeine does not help most athletes for endurance performance of 60 minutes or more.

Anybody have good studies or helpful summaries which say something about that?

Ken

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By Dustin B
From Steamboat
Feb 23, 2013
It's always a party.
Real Americans train with 'Go Juice'. The science is proven. If you don't know, you can google it.
Crushing!
Crushing!

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By Brendan Blanchard
From Strafford, NH
Feb 23, 2013
Obi Wan Ryobi - Darth Vader Crag, Rumney NH
Along with the previous cautions, I think the greatest risk may be to create a dependence or link between caffeine and performance that would be hard to break. When all your hardest redpoints are done with caffeine, you begin assuming that is why it happens and would become psychologically dependent on that extra kick to send. Especially once a tolerance is developed (say over a 3 month periodization cycle), all the training on caffeine will leave your final performance lacking any special kick. (Very similar point Will S' point.)

Maybe it's best left to during your performance when you definitely could use the extra kick, not during your training.

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By Dana Bartlett
From CT
Feb 23, 2013
I just got several review articles about caffeine and strength training: one from Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, the other from The Journal of Strength and Condition Research, 2010 and 2011 respectively. If anyone wants copies, send me your email address.

Dana

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By kenr
Feb 23, 2013
Tolerance is a good concern to raise.
One that serious runners who believe in caffeine do take seriously.

Anyone know how infrequently you have to space you bigger doses to avoid tolerance?
(for performances at like say, running 15-30 minutes?)

Ken

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By Brendan Blanchard
From Strafford, NH
Feb 23, 2013
Obi Wan Ryobi - Darth Vader Crag, Rumney NH
kenr wrote:
Tolerance is a good concern to raise. One that serious runners who believe in caffeine do take seriously. Anyone know how infrequently you have to space you bigger doses to avoid tolerance? (for performances at like say, running 15-30 minutes?) Ken


Data on tolerance/effectiveness would be interesting. I think avoiding habit/structured use would help maintain effectiveness. Any research on caffeine addiction/tolerance would be useful in determining the spacing needed.

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By Dustin Drake
Feb 23, 2013
Going to destroy your heart.

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By kenr
Feb 27, 2013
The two journal articles made me think that the findings about caffeine and strength training are kind of tricky. And the conclusions of the meta-analysis to me seemed contradictory: On the one hand that caffeine might help strength training thru its Central Nervous System effects, but on the other hand that it seems to help strength for some muscles but not others.

And reading about Tolerance for caffeine led me to explanations of the mechanisms by which caffeine does its work as a psychoactive drug -- which led me to think I'll be using less of it overall.

Ken

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By AdamB
From Chattanooga, TN
Feb 27, 2013
Black Boulder Problem, sent after a generous skin ...
nice strong cup of coffee induces a solid dump, watch you strength to weight ratio skyrocket...

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By Gif Zafred
From Pittsburgh, PA
Feb 27, 2013
Gif on Bimbo Shrine, Kaymoor
^^^^ Haha +1 to this. A friend of mine always said just that. He laughed at people arguing about the latest light weight draws. Just drink some high octane coffee!

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By 1Eric Rhicard
Feb 27, 2013
It is a good sized roof. Photo: Jimbo
No science just my experience. My disclaimer is that I drink it from dawn to about 5 p.m. While climbing there is usually a gap of a few hours so I will mix up a packet of Via in a water bottle that I put into the sun to warm up. This I will drink around 2 or 3 which gives me that afternoon bump when many redpoints go down for me. Oh and I could quit anytime if I wanted to.

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By AGParker
From San Angelo, TX
Feb 27, 2013
This article is primarily about energy drinks JISSN article on energy drinks but it says most benefits are directly related to caffeine. Read the section on caffeine for a brief list of the ergogenic benefits of consuming caffeine, with references to other articles if you're interested in reading more.

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By Will S
From Joshua Tree
Feb 27, 2013
Don't get me wrong, I think caffeine is VERY useful...just not as much for the guys who have a regular habit as for those who use it only for specific events. I certainly don't think you should be a habitual user, especially to fuel your training sessions.

M-F, I don't drink caffeine at all (I do get minor amounts via chocolate). On the weekend, I have a real coffee about half the time. The result is, when I am climbing and have some before/during, it actually works well. Back when I was a habitual user, it would have little effect other than satiating the withdrawl symptoms.

Seriously, quitting caffeine was one of the best choices I've made. I sleep MUCH better, almost always without waking during the night. In the years I was a regular coffee drinker, I'd have a night or two every week where I'd toss and turn and get poor sleep...even if I'd stopped caffeine by lunchtime. I still love the taste of good coffee and espresso, just have to go the decaf route these days.

The energy gels with choice of caffeine added (e.g none, 1x, 2x, etc) are great. I've taken caff pills on wall routes, but with the gels these days, I usually just get my on-route caff from them.

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By kenr
Feb 27, 2013
AGParker wrote:
JISSN article on energy drinks ... says most benefits are directly related to caffeine ...

Quote from that article:
"The literature is equivocal when considering the effects of caffeine supplementation on strength-power performance"

I take that to imply that it's still kinda tricky to know if those benefits from caffeine are much applicable to technical rock climbing.

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By AGParker
From San Angelo, TX
Feb 27, 2013
Kenr, that is correct. It likely would only benefit mountaineers or folks doing long approaches.

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By kenr
Feb 28, 2013
My suspicion would be that it's tricky to study the effect of caffeine on strength training and strength performance because:

(a) in modern western societies it's difficult to find many athletic subjects available for studies who do not already have significant caffeine tolerance.
(partly because so many athletes took note of the earlier successful findings for caffeine in aerobic endurance performance - or just from heavy marketing of "energy" drinks).

. (perhaps caffeine was not studied earlier for strength-training because there were other chemicals with obvious greater effect for that).

(b) Strength performance has perhaps a larger neural/mental aspect. At a lower level there's "neural recruitment". At a higher level there's overall "psych" factor.
Like for aerobic performances I've heard that the difference between public time-trial speeds and private/personal time-trial speeds are only about 3 percent.

So it's possible that some athletes for strength training have found ways to increase mobilization of neural/mental resources other than caffeine, so taking a caffeine pill doesn't make much difference. While athletes inexperienced with pure-strength performance (and who do not otherwise drink caffeine) might get a significant caffeine boost.

I'd guess caffeine might help for some climbers in some performance situations, but not for many others.

Ken

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