More caffeine: it kills pain, even in habitual users


As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)


A new study from the University of Illinois finds yet another way that caffeine boosts performance. Twenty-five cyclists performed intense half-hour exercise sessions, after consuming either a caffeine pill or a placebo; the caffeine group experienced less pain in their quadriceps. Interesting, but not earth-shattering, since we already knew that caffeine is probably the most versatile and powerful legal performance enhancer out there.

What’s most notable is this:

“What we saw is something we didn’t expect: caffeine-na├»ve individuals and habitual users have the same amount of reduction in pain during exercise after caffeine (consumption),” [said lead researcher Robert Motl].

This is the phenomenon discussed last week: even if you drink several cups of coffee a day, you’ll still get the same performance boost from a caffeine pill that a complete abstainer will. (And it may even work better for you, since you won’t be knocked off-balance by caffeine’s effects.) Nobody’s really sure why it works this way, but the Illinois study provides more evidence that it’s true.

One Reply to “More caffeine: it kills pain, even in habitual users”

Comments are closed.