I need coffee. I don’t know about you, but I can’t start my day— whether I’m going to work or not—without a big-ass cup of the stuff. Unlike most people, however, this isn’t because I’m impossible to deal with before I’ve had my fix. Instead, I recommend caffeine intake as adjunct nutrition for my Carb Back-Loading diet plan because the list of benefits we can derive from regular consumption is extremely impressive. In fact, I’d consider caffeine to be one of my must-have supplement recommendations.Advertisement
When you’re looking to build mass without adding fat with a Carb Back-Loading regimen, the idea is to avoid carbohydrates for the first half of your day in order to burn fat—or at least to prevent them from being stored as fat. What you probably don’t know, however, is that caffeine has been shown to increase the anabolic effect of Carb Back-Loading, partially because of its effect on the rise in cortisol in your body. Yes, you read that correctly: cortisol plays a major role.
Now, this obviously raises several big red flags for a lot of people, but believe it or not, a rise in cortisol isn’t always a bad thing.
WHEN CATABOLISM IS OK
When your cortisol levels rise during training, it’s considered a catabolic action, which means it’s breaking down tissue. Chronic cortisol release can stop your fat-burning process, and it’ll also increase muscle wasting. Throw in the fact that coffee has been found to increase cortisol release, and coffee sounds like a horrible idea. If you want to go with the conventional wisdom that’s been limiting your results, stop reading this right now and go throw away your coffee maker.
As with most things related to training and nutrition, however, things aren’t as simple as they appear on the surface when we consult the research. It’s been shown that the rise in cortisol due to caffeine, when it occurs, only lasts for about an hour. We therefore don’t have to worry about it elevating cortisol— with all the negative effects that come with this spike—for prolonged periods of time. Some studies have even shown that it has no effect whatsoever.
So what’s the cause of this discrepancy in terms of caffeine activated cortisol release? Well, we aren’t exactly sure about the necessary conditions under which caffeine won’t cause a rise in cortisol. We do, however, know when and why it will. This is important because cortisol isn’t considered evil when you’re Carb Back-Loading, thanks to timing. If you plan everything correctly, you can use cortisol to your advantage in a multitude of ways, because it’s catabolic— again, meaning it breaks things down—in your fat tissue, as well. Cortisol is also a highly effective painkiller, which explains why you’re prepared to run through walls during workouts you’d typically dread after having a giant cup of pre-training coffee or taking some caffeine pills. The release of cortisol will take the edge off even the most brutal sets of squats by significantly raising your pain threshold.
Recent research has also shown that the effectiveness of your training—i.e., how fast you get bigger and stronger—is directly correlated with the rise in cortisol levels during your training sessions. The result? All signs lead to higher cortisol levels during training, an effect that leads to greater gains in the gym.
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