Caffeine is the most popular drug in the world.
That’s right, it’s a drug, and we’re (almost) all dope-heads. In fact, I’m doping right now, and I’m willing to bet my left foot that some of you are as well.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, drugs (medicine) are what has permitted the human race to climb to the top of the food chain. For better or for worse. But does the form in which you consume caffeine matter?
The simple, TL;DR answer to the headline question is NO. The caffeine found in coffee and supplemental caffeine (caffeine anhydrous) are not different.
Caffeine anhydrous might be a scary word, but it literally translates to without (an-) water (-hydrous), which is all it is – dehydrated caffeine!
In most cases, caffeine anhydrous is simply isolated and dried out from plant sources. Just not coffee beans – those are too precious!
If you strictly want to know about caffeine and only caffeine, there isn’t really a long answer. Caffeine = caffeine.
However, coffee does have other bioactive ingredients. Therefore, if you were to drink a cup of coffee, you would have more helpful little compounds diffusing into your system than if you had caffeine anhydrous. One of the most obvious being water!
But there aren’t very many ways you could consume caffeine anhydrous in isolation other than taking a caffeine pill without fluid to wash it down.
If you’re consuming caffeine for enhancing your performance, that is where the crux of this argument lies: coffee (and its other ingredients) vs. caffeine (and other ingredients).
Most often, caffeine anhydrous is found in energy drinks and pre-workouts that contain some amount of water and, usually, other ingredients.
Caffeine anhydrous works by competing with a molecule called adenosine for the adenosine receptor. When adenosine binds to the receptor, you feel tired or out of energy.
When caffeine binds to the receptor you feel energetic, awake, and feel less pain.
When dosed properly the benefits are:
The best way to take anhydrous caffeine is 3-6 milligram per kilogram bodyweight 30-60 minutes before exercise.
Generally speaking, yes! According to organizations like the NAS, Health Canada, and the European Association of Food Safety, the upper safe limit is 400 milligrams a day for a healthy adult.
Individuals who are sensitive to caffeine and those who consume too much caffeine can experience:
Coffee also contains proven good-guys chlorogenic and caffeic acid, theobromine(a polyphenol), and the diterpenes, kahweol and cafestol.
Each of those ingredients would require a full blog article to discuss at the length they deserve, so we’ll suffice to say that these bioactive ingredients of coffee have antioxidant, antihypertensive, anticarcinogenic, and antihyperlipidemic properties.
In other words, coffee is anti-bad stuff, and coffee drinkers have been found to live longerthan nondrinkers. However, there aren’t really any performance-enhancing ingredients in coffee other than caffeine.
Energy drinks contain caffeine and some other ingredients, but typically they are not dosed in a quantity that will have any meaningful effects. Therefore if you’re looking to improve your speed, endurance, power output, strength, or any other athletic component, chances are you’re going to find that supplements will help more than coffee.
Of course, not all supplements are made equal (5 dirty secrets of the supplement industry).
That’s why we, EndurElite, exist in the first place – to bring you supplements that actually work! In our honest, albeit biased, opinion, PerformElite blows coffee (and other pre workouts) out of the water. Otherwise, why would we make it?
A detailed explanation of PerformElite can be found here, but briefly, PerformElite contains about as much caffeine as 2 cups of coffee.
That’s not all, it also features extended release caffeine that prevents late afternoon lethargy and allows you to sprint to the finish instead of just crossing the line.
The 1,670mg of beet root extract is the equivalent of about 600g of fresh beets. Beets are amazing, but I can’t eat 600g of them before running a race. Then there are 7 more clinically-validated ingredients with known benefits to endurance performance.
There you have it.
Caffeine, no matter the source, is caffeine, and supplemental caffeine is exactly the same as caffeine from coffee.
If you’re an athlete that wants to perform your best, caffeine will certainly help, but so can other supplements.
Coffee is delicious, though, and I for one will continue to drink it on my off days and while writing blog articles after my morning training sessions.
Please leave us a comment if you have any questions or counterpoints!