Everybody knows that caffeine will improve your workouts, but surprisingly few take advantage of that fact. Granted, there's a large segment of lifters that use pre-workout energy drinks – most of which contain caffeine – but more often guys will just sip on a cup of weak-ass coffee with some indeterminate amount of caffeine in it.
Given how anal lifters generally are regarding almost everything else they take, measuring out highly precise amounts of protein powder, creatine, aminos, or even hair gel, you'd think they'd apply a little bit of that anal-ness to caffeine intake, too.
Maybe they need to see some research. Maybe they need to know that precise amounts of pre-workout caffeine, administered in a very specific way, will not only improve workout endurance, but also strength and power.
Okay, research they (you) shall have. A new study found that caffeine gum, chewed 10 minutes before various tests of strength and power, acutely enhanced bench and squat performance, vertical-jump height, and whole-body power.
Nineteen weightlifters chewed, in randomized, counterbalanced order (where the participants are divided in half, with one half completing the two conditions in one order and the other half completing them in reverse order), either caffeinated chewing gum or placebo. The gum contained 300 mg. of caffeine.
Ten minutes later, they were tested on squat jump performance, leg extension, knee flexion (leg curl), bench press (at 50%, 75%, and 90% of 1RM), countermovement jump, and all-out rowing ergometer test.
The researchers reported the results in terms of "effect size," which is a "quantitative measure of the magnitude of a phenomenon." For instance, a .2 effect size is small, a .5 effect size is medium, and a .8 effect size is large.
Let's say you're considering the height of teenagers. The differences between the height of teenagers who are 13 and teenagers who are 18 is generally considerable. Statisticians might say the difference is a large effect size (maybe .8). The difference between the height of 14-year-old teenagers and 18-year-old teenagers, however, isn't as large. Statisticians would say the effect is medium (maybe .5)
The height difference, however, between teenagers who are 15 and 16, though, is small (maybe a .2 effect size).
Having said all that, here are the effect sizes of chewing caffeinated gum on the various strength and power measurements:
- Squat Jump: ES (Effect Size) .21
- Leg Extension: ES .21
- Knee Flexion: ES .22
- Bench Press Speed, 50% of 1RM: ES .30
- Bench Press Speed, 75% of 1RM: ES .44
- Bench Press Speed, 90% of 1RM: ES .43
- Countermovement Jump: ES .27
- All-Out Rowing: ES .41
The scientists wrote the following conclusion:
"Caffeinated chewing gum with a dose of caffeine of 300 mg. consumed 10 minutes pre-exercise may acutely enhance vertical-jump height, isokinetic strength and power of the lower-body musculature, barbell velocity in the bench press exercise with moderate to high loads, and whole-body power."
Chewing caffeine gum improved performance on every test, and while the effect size never approaches large, it did get within whiffing distance of medium on a couple of occasions.
Consider, though, that in lifting, even a measly effect size of .2 could constitute an "Oh, wow, I just lifted a shit-ton more weight than last time" moment, meaning that chewing caffeinated gum before a workout (or, by common sense extrapolation, ingesting 300 mg. of caffeine through any source, like energy drinks), is a terrific way to not only fire up your workout motivation, but performance, too.
If you go the caffeinated gum route, make sure you chew for at least 10 minutes. A different study on the effects of chewing caffeinated gum found that chewing for 2 minutes only releases half of the caffeine (47.9%), while chewing for 5 minutes and 10 minutes releases 77.6% and 96.2%, respectively.
- Venier, S et al. Acute Enhancement of Jump Performance, Muscle Strength, and Power in Resistance-Trained Men After Consumption of Caffeinated Chewing Gum. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 2019;14(10):1415-1421.
- Morris, C, et al. Caffeine release and absorption from caffeinated gum. Food Func., 2019;10:1792-1798.