Caffeine's a substance found in many foods and drinks, from chocolate to your morning latte. When it doesn't naturally occur in a food -- as in coffee or chocolate -- caffeine is added to it, like with soda and energy drinks. People use caffeine to stay awake and enhance their sports performance, and its stimulating qualities make it an addicting drug. But abusing caffeine can cause muscle tightness. Talk with a doctor if caffeine causes you health problems.
Effects on Muscles
Caffeine will perk you up in the morning, and fuel those late-night study sessions, but too much can make your muscles cringe. With caffeine, a little bit goes a long way, a 2010 study found. Researchers with Georgia State University studied how caffeine affects muscle endurance and strength. They looked through previous studies dating from 1939 to 2008 and concluded that caffeine does improve muscle strength and endurance. Too much, though, can make your muscles twitch, tighten and and become weak.
If you don't need energy for endurance exercise, caffeine can give you a five-minute boost. But that's it. And it's not for sprinters and other anaerobic exercising or exercises that require short bursts of speed. For peek muscle performance without tight muscles, the American Council of Sports Medicine says stick to one to two 8-ounce cups of caffeinated coffee or drink, 200 mg, one hour before exercising. Drinking or eating more than that in one day can have the opposite effect, especially if you go over the safe limit of 1,000 mg.
Limit caffeine before exercising until you know how your body handles it. Keep in mind that coffee is a drug, so use it sparingly. Besides muscle tightness, too much caffeine can give you a stomachache, make you anxious and give you a headache. Add needed nutrients -- potassium and sodium -- to your diet from natural, whole foods. Potassium and sodium are muscle healthy nutrients and, when in balance, help reduce fatigue, tightness and cramping.
Since caffeine's a diuretic, you may want a healthier non-muscle-tightening alternative for your fitness needs. Reach for protein foods like eggs, apples and nuts, which will give you an energy pick me up. Keep up with your snacking, but make snacks light and nutritiously dense. Pack protein-rich, low-fat snacks, such as granola and yogurt, and balance snacking with small, nutritious meals. And avoid muscle tightness by staying hydrated, especially if you're drinking caffeine. Drink enough water to match the amount of dehydrating caffeinated beverages you take in each day.
- Drugs.com: Caffeine
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise; Effect of Caffeine Ingestion on Muscular Strength and Endurance: A Meta-Analysis
- American College of Sports Medicine: Caffeine and Exercise Performance
- American Council on Exercise: Why Do Muscles Tighten Up?
- Mayo Clinic: Eating and Exercise: 5 Tips to Maximize Your Workouts
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images