It is well documented that caffeine, the alkaloid found in leaves, fruit and seeds of some plants (coffee, kola, tea and mate to name a few) stimulates the central nervous system, reduces the effects of fatigue, promotes wakefulness, and improves concentration and focus. Many use caffeine in the form of coffee, tea, energy drinks and caffeine pills i.e. seen recently among some members of the England football team, to give them a boost when lethargy sets in. There is absolutely no problem with this at all provided you don’t exceed the recommended dose suggested by the Food Standards Agency (2008), which is approximately 400mg of caffeine (four or five cups of coffee) per day.
A caffeine intake of approximately 200-400mg one hour before training was seen to increase testosterone levels, but this was accompanied by an increase in the cortisol: testosterone ratio after training, which may counter the anabolic properties of testosterone. If caffeine is something you like to ingest, try to stabilise insulin levels because if these drop, cortisol increases. Try ingesting whey, pea or another variety of liquid protein immediately after training to replenish the amino acid pool and increase insulin. Follow this with a starchy carb to ensure you don’t suffer from a blood sugar spike (resulting in a compensatory insulin decline) which would increase cortisol levels further. A good source of vitamin C such as broccoli, kale, bell peppers and berries is also key to limiting cortisol, just be sure to help maintain your insulin levels thereafter with a consistent source of starchy carbohydrate (potato, wholegrain pasta, rice and bread) (Livestrong.com, 2011).
Consumption of antioxidant rich foods and vitamins and minerals will also reduce the damaging effects of the stress hormone cortisol, so opt for a multi- vitamin and mineral and an omega oil blend such as Optimum Health Omega Oil to help buffer the free radical toxins that cause oxidative stress, reduced training gains, and increased risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Vitamin E is also a potent cleanser so opt for vegetable oils e.g. olive oil, nuts, soya, seeds, whole grains e.g. wholegrain bread, cereals, brown rice/pasta, also opt for sweet potato, beans and lentils and green leafy veg. Consider also Optimum Health Vitamin E (Mann, & Truswell, 2007).
Beaven CM, Hopkins WG, Hansen KT, Wood MR, Cronin JB, Lowe TE. Dose effect of caffeine on testosterone and cortisol responses to resistance exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2008 Apr;18(2):131-41.
Food Standards Agency, (2008). Manual of Nutrition, 11th Ed. London: TSO.
Mann, J. & Truswell, S. (2007). Essentials of Human Nutrition, 3rd Ed. Antioxidants and Flavonoids. Oxford: Oxford University Press.