60-Second Science

Caffeine Cuts Workout Pain

A study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism finds that caffeine cuts the pain of exercise. Karen Hopkin reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

Coffee before biking? You may have to stop on the side of the road sooner, but new research suggests that caffeine can help you get more bang from your workout buck, because it keeps you from feeling the burn.

Competitive cyclists and other athletes often consume caffeine before a competition, presumably because they feel like the buzz helps them push a little bit harder. But a study published in the April issue of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism suggests that the reason caffeine allows athletes to push themselves farther is because it makes exercise hurt that much less.

Researchers had 25 subjects engage in two bouts of high intensity cycling. Before each session, they gave every subject a pill. One time, the pill contained the equivalent of two or three cups of coffee. The other time it was just a placebo. The participants all said they felt less pain in their leg muscles during the caffeine-assisted workout than they did with the sugar pill. And it even worked for subjects who already chug a couple thermoses of joe a day. So, the barista can help your biking. Java can boost your jogging. And, of course, enjoy those lattes before your Pilates.

—Karen Hopkin

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