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Post-exercise Caffeine Helps Muscles Refuel

by Lynn Shapiro, Writer | July 02, 2008

The drinks looked, smelled and tasted the same and both contained the same amount of carbohydrate. Neither the researchers nor the cyclists knew which regimen they were receiving.

The researchers found the following:
-One hour after exercise, muscle glycogen levels had replenished to the same extent whether or not the athlete had the drink containing carbohydrate and caffeine or carbohydrate only.
-Four hours after exercise, the drink containing caffeine resulted in 66 percent higher glycogen levels compared to the carbohydrate-only drink.
-Throughout the four-hour recovery period, the caffeinated drink resulted in higher levels of blood glucose and plasma insulin.
-Several signaling proteins believed to play a role in glucose transport into the muscle were elevated to a greater extent after the athletes ingested the carbohydrate-plus-caffeine drink.

Dr. Hawley said it is not yet clear how caffeine aids in facilitating glucose uptake from the blood into the muscles. However, the higher circulating blood glucose and insulin levels were likely to be a factor. In addition, caffeine may increase the activity of several signaling enzymes, including the calcium-dependent protein kinase and protein kinase B, which have roles in muscle glucose uptake during and after exercise.

Lower Dose is the Next Step

In this study, researchers used a high dose of caffeine. However, because caffeine can have potentially negative effects, such as disturbing sleep or causing jitters, the next step is to determine whether smaller doses could accomplish the same goal.

Dr. Hawley pointed out that caffeine ingestion affects each individual differently so athletes who want to incorporate caffeine into their workouts should experiment during training sessions well in advance of an important competition to find out what works for them.

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