Another study adds to the growing research about the effects of caffeine on reported muscle pain during exercise. A study [Effect of Caffeine on Leg Muscle Pain During Cycling Exercise among Females] published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that caffeine ingestion has a large effect on reducing leg muscle pain during exercise among females.
These findings are similar to a study by researchers at the University of Georgia [Effect of Caffeine on Perceptions of Leg Muscle Pain During Moderate Intensity Cycling Exercise] that found that caffeine taken prior to exercise can lessen the muscle pain experienced during intense exercise among men.
Both studies looked at the effect of caffeine taken one hour before exercise on reported muscle pain during exercise. Participants took either a placebo or a caffeine pill and then rode an exercise bike for thirty minutes at high intensity. Individuals reported substantially less pain in their thigh muscles after taking caffeine compared to the placebo. However, results of the 2003 study also found that the effect varied with the individual’s caffeine habit. Caffeine seemed less effective at reducing pain in heavy caffeine users. This is likely due to a change in the receptors that causes tolerance to caffeine’s effects.
In the past much research has shown that caffeine improves endurance during exercise. This study suggests that improved endurance may be related to caffeine’s hypoalgesic properties which may reduce sensitivity to pain. The next steps are to learn more about the mechanism behind the pain reduction. Researchers are anxious to discover whether caffeine is working on the muscles or on the brain.
Motl RW, O’connor PJ, Tubandt L, Puetz T, Ely MR. Effect of caffeine on leg muscle pain during cycling exercise among females. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2006 March; 38(3):598-604.
Motl RW, O’Connor PJ, Dishman RK. Effect of caffeine on perceptions of leg muscle pain during moderate intensity cycling exercise. Journal of Pain. 2003 August 4(6):316-21.