January 24, 2007

Caffeine has long been known to increase alertness and endurance, but a new study suggests that it also may help reduce the post-workout soreness that discourages some people from exercising.

In the study, to be published in the February issue of The Journal of Pain, a team of University of Georgia researchers report that moderate doses of caffeine, roughly equivalent to two cups of coffee, cut post-workout muscle pain by up to 48% in a small sample of volunteers.

Lead author Victor Maridakis, a researcher in the department of kinesiology at the UGA College of Education, said the findings may be particularly relevant to people new to exercise, since they tend to experience the most soreness.

Maridakis and his colleagues studied nine female college students who were not regular caffeine users and did not engage in regular resistance training. One and two days after an exercise session that caused moderate muscle soreness, the volunteers took either caffeine or a placebo and performed two different quadriceps (thigh) exercises, one designed to produce a maximal force, the other designed to generate a sub-maximal force. Those that consumed caffeine 1 hour before the maximum force test had a 48% reduction in pain compared to the placebo group, while those that took caffeine before the sub-maximal test reported a 26% reduction in pain.

“A lot of times, what people use for muscle pain is aspirin or ibuprofen, but caffeine seems to work better than those drugs, at least among women whose daily caffeine consumption is low,” said co-author and UGA professor Patrick O’Connor.