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When I'm tired,

  1. My workout sucks and,

  2. I really don't feel like working out.

Caffeine helps with #2 but I'm wondering if it affects #1. Because apparently caffeine's effect is in the brain not the body, like it "hides" tiredness rather than eliminating it. So perhaps it's useless for bodybuilding?

2 Answers 2

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Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, and, as such, has been shown to improve athletic performance in some studies.

“Caffeine ingestion (3-9 mg/kg body weight) prior to exercise increases performance during prolonged endurance exercise and short-term intense exercise lasting approximately 5 min in the laboratory. These results are generally reported in well-trained elite or recreational subjects.”

School of Human Biology, University of Guelph, ON, Canada

However, while caffeine may affect your mood and outlook, it will not affect whether your training routine “sucks”. That’s simply something you need to resolve on your own. And, as for its use in bodybuilding, there are other lesser known uses.

In the 1990s, it was not unusual for bodybuilders to use caffeine with ephedra and an aspirin (ECA stack) to boost weight loss during preparation for competition. Since then, however, those supplements have been banned as reports showed they were implicated in heart attacks, stroke and death. I do not recommend this as a weight loss regimen.

As for its usefulness in bodybuilding, you’ll need to assess whether it helps you train on those days when you can’t seem to get a good workout. But, rather than relying on caffeine as a training aid, you’d be better served to make sure you are eating properly, resting adequately, and recovering effectively.

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  • Nice to see someone else knows how to cite. Definitely stay away from ephedra -- knew someone that died of an Aortic Dissection after taking too much ephedra. medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000181.htm
    – Mike-DHSc
    Jul 19, 2017 at 3:53
  • Nice answwer, thanks @rrirower! About your advice of resting adequately that's something unfortunately some of us simply cannot achieve all the time!
    – drake035
    Jul 19, 2017 at 12:53
  • Also useful to note: 3-9 mg/kg almost requires a caffeine pill. Coffee has approx 95 mg, so a 70 kg person would need 2 1/2 cups just to get to the minimum loading dose. Also, the effects get less the more you regularly intake caffeine.
    – JohnP
    Jul 19, 2017 at 15:12
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    @drake035 rest is arguably the most essential part of any training regimen.
    – JohnP
    Jul 19, 2017 at 15:13
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Caffeine will improve your mental state, not your physical state. If that is all that is wrong, then it will help.

However you need to assess why you are tired. Fixing it with caffeine is a loosing battle. You will need more and more of it as time goes on.

Plain and simple, if your tired:

  • Sleep more
  • Eat more
  • Stress less

Your body needs rest and plenty of food, and as little stress as possible when your trying to build as much muscle as possible.

So no, it's not useless. If you had a bad day, but ate enough, slept enough, then it's not unreasonable to have some caffeinated drink to add some "pep" to your workout. But don't rely on this all the time.

Also be aware that your body needs a break from intense training every few weeks to every few months. If you have no motivation to lift even with plenty of food and sleep, consider taking a week off and coming back to training after that. During your week off, you still need to eat and sleep as if you were training.

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