Caffeine Therapy

Caffeine is a model of drug abuse34, and I love it. I don’t know where I’d be without caffeine. Actually I do know where I’d be right now—in bed asleep for the last four hours—but thanks to a strong cup of joe and sugar-free energy drinks, I’ll burn several more hours writing and researching before the caffeine wears off. My name’s Kiefer and I’m a caffeine addict.

For most of my life, I was not a fan of caffeine despite my years in graduate school when my life depended on the ratio of coffee to blood flowing through my veins—a ratio that I’m sure hovered above one most of the time. It wasn’t because of my religion or some other ideology, but because I thought I didn’t need it. Had I only known the potential of coffee’s bitter nectar—it’s true potential that I discovered a few years ago when I began experimenting with Carb Back-Loading™. I figured out that with coffee I could bend the timing of circadian insulin sensitivity to my whim. With caffeine, I no longer need to wait until the evening to eat carbs.

So getting to the gym today exactly at 5pm is not top priority.

Yes, I’ve known this for some time and yes, I was holding out on you when I first introduced Carb Back-Loading. I didn’t throw too many variables out there at once as I knew from experience that I probably wouldn’t explain the basics well enough to begin with. It never escaped me, though I seemed stern on the point of timing your workout, that few people have the luxury of picking their training time with infinite latitude. Let’s be honest: how many people live a life where they can train at the same time every day, a time of their choosing? Not many, including me. Clients and deadlines don’t give a damn when I want to train. I try to start my training session after 3pm; life, however, often dictates otherwise.

This is where caffeine comes in handy. If I need to train earlier in the day than is optimal, I drink caffeine before my session and if the training session runs too long, as part of my post-workout nutrition. I don’t have the caffeine—often in the form of coffee because of the additional cholinomimetic stimulants1,2—because of the cognitive-enhancing abilities3,4, the fat-burning properties5-14, because it increases testosterone levels during training15 and not because recent research shows that caffeine increases nitrous oxide (NO) production16. I don’t even care that caffeine raises your pain threshold, allowing me to push a little harder17-21. I take the caffeine because it decreases my sensitivity to insulin22-30.

Insulin sensitivity is important to health and doctors normally try to help patients increase their sensitivity to insulin and here I am decreasing mine. This is where diet and medical advice gets it wrong. Assumptions about one population cannot applied to all populations out-of-hand. I train heavy. That makes me different from 85% of the U.S. population. Someone who’s sedentary and overweight would be advised to stay clear of the morning caffeine. For those Americans who don’t resistance train, that early morning latte loaded with sugar and caffeine is accelerating their impending diabetes; nothing like loading the body with sugar, turning off the “safe” routes of storage and metabolism, and causing early-onset neuropathy and fat accumulation. “I’ll have a scone with that…fat-free, please…I’m watching my figure.”

I don’t understand—I always get the fat-free scone with my jumbo chocotoxic latte.

Getting up to train at 6 am also makes me atypical, and possibly the fact that I don’t get a low-fat scone if I’m going to get a scone at all. So, at that point, I’d be up early, have had no carbs—possibly no food at all—and be loaded with caffeine. Time to train. By having the caffeine, at the end of my workout I am in a state mimicking the evening reduction in insulin sensitivity. My fat cells can’t intake sugar because they’re less responsive to insulin, but my muscle tissue—which is also insulin de-sensitized—can soak up sugar like a sponge because resistance training forces GLUT4 proteins to the surface of the cells. Once the GLUT4 migrate, they can transport sugar regardless of insulin levels. With caffeine and resistance training, you can control which tissue soaks up sugar and which can’t at any time of day. Control is a beautiful thing.

Caffeine use alone does not substitute for true Carb Back-Loading. This is adjunct therapy. If you cannot make your training time fall after 3pm, then this is your best option for simulating the effects. Caffeine therapy to induce the same physiological state as daytime circadian rhythms is powerful, but you still have other issues to deal with, as the hormonal status in the morning—the increased cortisol levels—is not as favorable as in the evening for ingesting carbs.

Example for morning training:

No carbs before training (if you train as soon as you get up, this is pretty easy)

2 cups of coffee (about 400mg of caffeine depending on the cup size)
10g of an isolate and hydrolysate blend (½ scoop of Blend H)
5 grams of creatine

40g of an isolate and hydrolysate blend (2 scoops of Blend H)
5 grams leucine
25 grams of a fast acting carb (rilose, dextrose, maltodextrin) or 2 to 3 ripe (mottled brown) bananas
200mg of caffeine from a powder or one cup of coffee

Afterward, from post-workout until 6pm or so (dinner), stay ultra-low carb. At dinner start eating the carbs. I’ll talk more about what type of carbs you should eat when back-loading in another article.

Even if you’re eating carbs all day, caffeine helps refill glycogen stores.

In the discussion here, I have primarily focused on simulating the metabolic state that makes Carb Back-Loading such a powerful dietary protocol, but anyone on a carb-based diet can take advantage of caffeine therapy for faster post-training recovery. When ingested as part of a post-workout recovering drink that includes carbohydrates, levels of caffeine around 3.5mg per pound body weight induce a rapid rate of glycogen recovery35,36, stemming, in all likelihood, from the same effect. For a 200 lb male, this would be 700 to 800 mg of caffeine, which, for some, may sound like a lot of caffeine. People generally tolerate intakes up to a gram at a time (1000 mg) well37-42.

Note: I mention coffee throughout the article as a source of caffeine and there are others such as tea, chocolate and guarana. Choose guarana, coffee or energy drinks that specify caffeine for your main sources. Caffeine is a type of methylxanthine found mostly in guarana and coffee beans and is the most potent31,32 (ephedra is not caffeine and is not chemically related). Theophylline is found in teas and theobromine is the type found in chocolate. They all display the same general characteristics and the stronger the type, the shorter duration of effects33. You might be thinking that you should go for the weaker types (from tea and chocolate) and go for the longer effects. It’s a good thought, but you’re better off taking regular doses of the more potent form, and with a Starbucks on every corner, you have no excuse to avoid a regular shot of espresso. You can be an addict too.


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