The body of literature considering caffeine as an ergogenic aid has primarily considered typically aerobic based exercise, male participants and moderate-to large-caffeine doses. With this in mind the aim of this project was to explore the effects of a low-caffeine dose upon maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) and muscular endurance (time to task failure, TTF) at heavier-and lighter-loads.
Nineteen physically active, habitual caffeine consuming females randomly performed four testing conditions; two with a low-dose of caffeine (100 mg equating to mean = 1.5 ± 0.18 mg·kg-1) and two placebo conditions, where they performed a maximal strength test (MVC) knee extension at 45° followed by a task of relative muscular endurance (sustained isometric contraction for TTF) using either heavier-(70% MVC) and lighter-(30% MVC) loads. Each participant performed each load condition following both caffeine and placebo consumption. Immediately following cessation of the muscular endurance test participants were asked to report their rating of perceived effort (RPE) and rating of perceived discomfort (RPD).
Analyses revealed a significant effect for caffeine upon MVC compared to placebo (p = 0.007). We also found a significantly greater TTF for the lighter-compared to the heavier-load condition (p < 0.0001); however, there was no significant effect comparing caffeine to placebo (p = 0.2368), but insufficient precision of estimates to infer equivalence in either lighter-(p = 0.750) or heavier-load (p = 0.262) conditions. There were no statistically significant effects for caffeine compared with placebo, or lighter-compared with heavier-loads, for RPE and RPD (all p > 0.05). RPE was statistically equivalent between caffeine and placebo for both lighter-(p = 0.007) and heavier-load (p = 0.002) conditions and RPD for heavier-(p = 0.006) but not lighter-load (p = 0.136).
This is the first study to demonstrate a positive effect on strength from a low caffeine dose in female participants. However, it is unclear whether caffeine positively impacts upon relative muscular endurance in either heavier-or lighter-loads. Further, both RPE and RPD appear to be relatively similar during isometric tasks performed to task failure independently of caffeine supplementation or load. These findings may have implications for persons wishing to avoid side-effects or withdrawal symptoms associated with larger caffeine doses whilst still attaining the positive strength responses.