No one likes getting super sore from training. It’s painful, reduces athletic performance, and keeps you from training as often as you’d like. Research shows there’s a simple but highly effective way to reduce post-workout muscle soreness (DOMS) and accelerate recovery.
One of the lesser-known benefits of caffeine is that it appears to be one of the most effective methods for curing sick muscles. For example, a 2013 study had trained men take 5 mg/kg of bodyweight of caffeine and then do a muscle-damaging workout to induce DOMS.
Results showed that compared to a placebo, participants who took caffeine were much less sore on day 2 and 3 after training. Soreness was completely gone by the end of the third day in the caffeine group, suggesting it accelerated the recovery process.
Of interest, the caffeine group had a lower rating of perceived exertion and did more reps on the final set of the workout, indicating they worked harder than the placebo group, but still experienced less muscle soreness.
Why Caffeine Works: Scientists suggest that caffeine reduces soreness because it blocks central nervous receptors related to pain.
Use It: A 5 mg/kg/bodyweight appears ideal for reducing DOMS and enhancing training performance. This is equivalent to about 2.5 cups of coffee. There is some evidence that performance benefits from caffeine are greater when capsules are taken compared to drinking the equivalent dose as coffee. Most likely, it’s an individual preference.
Hurley, C., et al. The Effect of Caffeine Ingestion on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2013. 27(11):3101-9.