The Role of Caffeine in Physical Activity  

Caffeine is a tool that I use on days when I run or play soccer. I certainly do find a benefit to consuming caffeine before and during these periods of physical activity. However, I am also aware that it is important to be mindful of my caffeine consumption. 

Today we’re talking about the role of caffeine in physical activity – why it’s beneficial, how to use it and when to use it. 

As part of Caffeine Awareness Month. I’m teaming up with the Canadian Beverage Association to present this information to you today!

What Is Caffeine 

Caffeine is one of the world’s favourites “pick me ups” and has known and loved benefits such as decreasing fatigue, increasing focus and concentration. In fact, coffee, tea and tap-water are the most commonly consumed beverages by Canadians, between the ages of 18-79. As well, more than 29 million servings of coffee were consumed in Canada in 2015.

Caffeine is found naturally found in 60 different plants, including coffee beans, cola nuts, guarana nuts and yerba mate. It can also be synthetically produced and added to soft drinks, energy drinks, dietary supplements and energy bars.

Although there are some health benefits, including enhancing physical activity performance, caffeine should be consumed in moderation to ensure optimal functionality and sleep hygiene.

Caffeine and Physical Activity  

Caffeine is a popular ergogenic acid, and is widely used by athletes at all levels. An ergogenic acid is a substance that enhances energy production and performance in physical activity. The performance-enhancing effects of caffeine have been studied for over 100 years. The ergogenic effects of caffeine appear to result from antagonistic interactions with adenosine receptors in the central and peripheral nervous systems, increasing central drive and reducing the perception of effort and pain during exercise.

Showcasing what I have before my run – oatmeal and 1-2 small cups of coffee!

How Much Caffeine To Have Before and During Physical Activity

General caffeine guidelines recommend the consumption of 3-6 mg/kg of caffeine, typically 60 minutes before the start of exercise. 

For me, that is 177 mg to about 350 mg. However, there is certainly inter-individual variation in response to this standardized protocol. Some athletes are more caffeine sensitive than others. I personally, don’t think I would do well with consuming 350 mg of caffeine before exercise, as I am more caffeine sensitive and that is getting close to the upper limit of the recommended amount of caffeine per day, established by Health Canada, which is 400 mg/day. The degree of caffeine sensitivity/ tolerance could be explained by genetic variations, related to caffeine metabolism or adenosine receptor density. 

Additional research has found that that moderate to high caffeine doses (5–9 mg/kg body mass (bm)), ingested before and during exercise, increase endurance performance in laboratory and field settings. These doses are associated with increased heart rate and blood catecholamine, lactate, free fatty acid and glycerol levels in many subjects. However, side effects that often occur include gastrointestinal upset, nervousness, mental confusion, inability to focus and disturbed sleep.

Lower caffeine doses (<3 mg/kg bm ~200 mg) taken before, during and late in exercise also increase endurance performance, and do not cause the physiological changes and side effects noted above in most individuals.

I’ve certainly felt the effect of too much caffeine – which has impacted my sleep quality and levels of anxiety. If I am anxious or sleep-deprived before playing soccer, I don’t perform as well!

Caffeine Use In Soccer 

Caffeine is an ergogenic in many forms of short-term high-intensity exercise and team stop-and-go sports, where anaerobic energy provision plays a significant role in performance success – such as soccer!

In research specifically related to soccer, acute caffeine intake in a moderate dose (1.5 to 7mg/kg before exercise has the capacity to improve several soccer-related abilities and skills such as vertical jump height, repeated sprint ability, running distances during a game and passing accuracy. 

It should be noted that doses up to 7 mg/kg would provide more than the recommended amount of caffeine/day. Please still follow the recommended caffeine amounts presented in guidelines from Health Canada.

Caffeine Use In Running 

Caffeine has been shown to positively impact endurance performance in sports such as running. Research has demonstrated that caffeine has a small but evident effect on endurance performance when taken in moderate doses (3–6 mg/kg) as well as an overall improvement following caffeine compared to placebo in mean power output and time-trial completion time. 

It is also likely helpful to consume caffeine during a long run or race. Greater responsiveness to small amount of caffeine (2-3 mg/kg) may be seen when it is taken during a race, around the onset of fatigue. 

I’m usually consuming 25-100 mg of caffeine during my run.

How I Use Caffeine In Physical Activity 


I have been running and playing soccer for years, so I have been able to experiment with different amounts of caffeine consumption before and during exercise. I usually consume two cups of homebrewed coffee (~ 200 mg of caffeine) before my run and before soccer. As I am currently training for a full marathon in May, I do find it is helpful to consume additional caffeine during my long runs (which are 2 hours +). I will typically consume that caffeine in the form of energy gels, that contain another 100 mg of caffeine. This has helped reduce fatigue for me and helped with endurance during my long runs. 

Bottom Line:

Caffeine is an effective ergogenic acid during physical activity, helping to reduce fatigue and enhance performance. However, it is important to be mindful of caffeine intake so that we don’t exceed the 400 mg/day or 300 mg during pregnancy.  

How You Can Over 100 g of Protein In a Day Without Meat

There is certainly an misconception that if you don’t eat meat, than you can’t get enough protein – but this is so far from the truth!

I’m going to show you how I get over 100 grams of protein, without eating any meat! 

*Note that everyone’s protein needs are different. I usually try to aim for around 80-90 grams of protein a day, based on my weight and physical activity level. More on your protein needs below. 

This post is sponsored by my favourite new way to add protein to my breakfast meal: Allo Protein Powder for Hot Coffee! Out of all my meals, I struggle to get enough protein at breakfast the most, as I try to aim for 20-30 g of protein per meal. I have been using the Allo Nutrition Protein powder in my morning coffee to give me 10 grams of protein – and it mixes in so seamlessly while maintaining the integrity of your black coffee! Watch me mix it into my coffee during this during this TikTok video. The flavours are sugar free, gluten-free and clump free. A really great option for busy people on the go, who may need a protein boost! They are from my home city, Toronto, which makes me love them even more. Check them out at @alloyourcoffee on social!

Function of Protein 

Why do we care about protein anyways?

Let’s first discuss what protein is. Protein is made of amino acids, which your body uses for basic functions like maintaining hair, skin, nails, and bones, and producing hormones, enzymes, and other chemicals. Protein is involved in basically every bodily process. 

It’s also a necessary macronutrient for the building and repair of muscles. Not getting enough protein can lead to muscle wasting, fractures, and susceptibility to infection. Protein deficiency is extremely rare, as long as you’re consuming enough calories. Protein also helps us feel fuller for longer by releasing GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide 1) and CCK (cholecystokinin) – both proteins that play a role in satiety. Protein also decreases levels of a hormone called neuropeptide Y, which can increase hunger.

Before we get into talking about the building blocks of protein, let’s touch on how our body uses protein. When we eat protein – whether it’s a chicken breast or tofu – amino acids are coiled into chains in the shape of helixes. During digestion, these helixes are uncoiled in the stomach, and the chains that make up that protein are broken up into smaller chains by enzymes in the stomach. These chains are then broken up further into individual amino acids in the small intestine by enzymes called proteases. The amino acids are then absorbed into the bloodstream and transported around the body to be used in various functions (as listed above).

So how much protein do we need in a day?

 Protein requirements depend on factors such as body composition, activity level, weight, disease state, etc. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that people should have around 0.8 to one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, research has evolved since then. A study done in 2012 by Bray et al. in a metabolic ward found that 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight was the sweet spot for protein intake – meaning that a lower protein intake resulted in more lean body mass loss and protein intake over 1.8 g per kg didn’t make much of a difference in composition.  

In a 2018 review of studies by Schoenfeld & Aragon, the consensus was 0.4 grams of protein per kilogram per meal, which works out to about 20 to 30 grams – but this was also recommended four times a day. If you like to eat three meals a day, you can make up the rest of your protein needs in snacks.

For athletes, the latest recommendations from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) are that athletes should be getting between 1.4 to 2.0 grams per kilogram bodyweight of protein. This also depends on the type and intensity of training. It’s also best to consume protein throughout the day, especially within 30 minutes following a workout, to optimize its benefit on recovery, repair, and muscle growth. You can read more about the ISSN’s recommendations about protein in the required readings below.

Another important thing to note is that it’s not just the total amount of protein in a day that matters, but it’s also the protein timing. Several researches have found that consuming a minimum of 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal promotes fullness and preserve muscle mass, better than smaller amounts of protein eaten throughout the day (Deutz & Wolfe, 2013). 

What I Eat To Get My Protein Needs Met

Alright, that being said, this is how I meet my protein needs in a day!

Breakfast (50 g of protein)

  • Allo Protein Powder In Coffee (10 g of Protein)
  • Tofu Scramble + High Protein Bread (40 g of Protein)

Protein Coffee

No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 mins
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1 package Allo Protein Powder For Hot Coffee
  • 240 ml Coffee

Instructions
 

  • Make your coffee then stir in the package of Allo Protein Powder. Stir and enjoy!
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Tofu Scramble

No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 16 Oz Extra Firm Tofu
  • 1/2 Red Onion
  • 1 Red Pepper Sliced
  • 4 Cup Kale
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 0.5 Tsp Chili Powder
  • 0.5 Tsp Turmeric

Instructions
 

  • Pat tofu dry and roll in a clean, absorbent towel with something heavy on top, such as a cast-iron skillet, for 15 minutes.
  • While tofu is draining, prepare sauce by adding dry spices to a small bowl and adding enough water to make a pourable sauce. Set aside.
  • Prep veggies and warm a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil and the onion and red pepper. Season with a pinch each salt and pepper and stir. Cook until softened – about 5 minutes.
  • Add kale, season with a bit more salt and pepper, and cover to steam for 2 minutes.
  • In the meantime, crumble the tofu with a fork into bite-sized pieces.
  • Use a spatula to move the veggies to one side of the pan and add tofu. Sauté for 2 minutes, then add sauce, pouring it mostly over the tofu and a little over the veggies. Stir immediately, evenly distributing the sauce. Cook for another 5-7 minutes until tofu is slightly browned.
  • Serve with high protein bread and enjoy!
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Snacks (12 grams of Protein)

  • 1/2 Cup Roasted Chickpeas (6 g of Protein)
  • 1/4 Cup of Pistachios + 1 Apple (6 g of Protein )

Lunch (27 g of protein)

Baked Chickpea Pasta

Nicole Osinga, RD, MAN, BASc
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 55 mins
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 3-4 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper sliced
  • 8 oz chickpea pasta dried
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup hummus
  • 1 tsp dried basil

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 400F, then in a large baking dish, add in your cherry tomatoes, garlic cloves, red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes and 1 tsp of olive oil and toss to combine.
  • Make a well in the center of your baking dish and add in your hummus. Top the hummus with the dry basil, oregano and the remaining olive oil, then place in the oven to bake for 30-40 minutes or until tomatoes are blistered and juicy.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.
  • Once the veggies and hummus are cooked, carefully with a fork mash your tomatoes and garlic to fully release all of their juices, then mix into the hummus to get a thicker sauce. Mix in cooked pasta and enjoy.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!



Dinner (25 g of protein)

Tempeh Quinoa Stir Fry

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Servings 3
Calories 398 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1.5 cup Quinoa cooked
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 cup Veggie Broth
  • 1 tbsp Garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp Basil
  • 18 oz Tempeh
  • 1/2 Onion sliced
  • 3 cups Broccoli Florets
  • 1 cup Edamame
  • 1/2 head Cauliflower chopped

Instructions
 

  • Mix together the balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, vegetable broth, garlic and oregano in a bowl. Add the tempeh/tofu and marinate for at least 20 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Add the prepared veggies to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once the tempeh is done marinating, add it to the parchment-lined baking sheet as well. Add the extra marinade to the veggies.
  • Roast for about 24 to 26 minutes, turning the tempeh and stirring the vegetables halfway through. Top quinoa with roasted tempeh and veggies. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 398kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 35gFat: 16g
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Steps For Reading a Label For Food Allergens

Newly diagnosed with a food allergy? Label reading can feel tricky! In addition to always having your EpiPen auto-injector available at all times, reading food labels are a key component to managing food allergies!

Let me walk you through the steps of reading through a food label and help you identify and avoid your allergen.

Is It True Weight Gain? Watch How Much My Weight Fluctuates In One Morning

A number of us have experienced it. After a weekend of indulgence, we step on the scale on Monday morning and find that we’re had a considerable weight increase. We then start to resent the choices we’ve made on the weekend and a swear that we’ll make better choices for the week coming.

However, is this really true weight gain? Are there other factors that could have lead to this weight increase?