More Evidence in Favor of the Post!-Workout Coffee: 250mg Caffeine 2x à Day Soothe Muscle Soreness (DOMS), Sign.

Delicious, ergogenic and good for sore, damaged muscles: coffee!
You will remember that caffeine can improve skeletal muscle glycogen resynthesis after workouts. The corresponding study by Pedersen et al. is yet no longer the only study which makes the post-, not pre-workout coffee attractive for athletes and gymrats alike.

In their latest paper in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Aron R. Caldwell and colleagues report the results of an interesting experiment, an experiment with a hypothesis that was based, mainly, on the well-known, but short-lived (2-4 hours) analgesic (=pain relieving) effects of the world's favorite drug: caffeine.
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To test, whether those would help athletes to recover faster, Caldwell et al. simply postponed the usual caffeine ingestion schedule that would have the subjects ingest caffeine pills or caffeinated beverages ~1 hour before exercise, to maximize blood caffeine concentrations for ergogenic effects during exercise or testing, to the post-workout window. And since the authors also speculated that "the primary mode of action of caffeine during recovery", if there was any, was "analgesic in nature, such that any reduction in pain sis directly related to blood levels of caffeine" (Caldwell. 2017). They had their subjects ingest caffeine several occasions throughout the day - here twice a day - so that any measurable decreases in skeletal muscle soreness would be maintained. Accordingly, subjects rated muscle soreness once in the morning, before caffeine ingestion (i.e., when blood caffeine levels were low), and once midday (i.e., when blood caffeine levels were high).

The exercise stimulus the subjects, adult men (n = 25; 53 ± 10 years) and women (n = 5; 46 ± 11
years) were subjected to was nothing less than the 2015 Hotter’N Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls, TX, a 164-km bicycle ride that takes place, above all, in August. All subjects had previously completed at least one 164-km cycle ride and were not naive to caffeine consumption (habitual intake = 230 mg of caffeine per day).
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"To examine the effects of caffeine ingestion on soreness and functionality, subjects who completed a 164-km recreational cycle ride were matched for body mass, age, and sex, and were randomly assigned to ingest caffeine or identical looking placebo pills after completion of the ride. To examine the effects of caffeine or placebo ingestion on DOMS and functionality during recovery, subjects continued ingesting caffeine or placebo twice a day, once in the early morning on waking and once at noon, for the next 3 days. 
Measures of perceived function ality and soreness were obtained before and after the ride, and in the morning and in the afternoon of the 3 subsequent days before ingesting pills. Morning and afternoon measures of functionality and soreness were separated to evaluate if the caffeine dosing schedule effected subjects perception of these 2 variables" (Caldwell. 2017).
As hinted at previously, the subjects ingested the caffeine pills (3mg/kg, i.e. 252 mg on average, per serving) in the mornings 1–4 days post-ride (700 or 800 hours) and in the afternoons on 1–3 days post-ride (1200 hours) after being prompted by e-mail and text message. And yes, it would be interesting to see how they'd done if they'd got this caffeine from coffee - probably better! After all, "Coffee Beats Caffeine in the Gym!" (read more).
Figure 1: Mean (±SD) overall ratings of perceived muscle soreness (RPMSOVERALL) when assessed in the (A) morning and (B) afternoon, and RPMS specifically in the legs (RPMSLEGS) in the (C) morning and (D) afternoon. *Significant difference p < 0.05 between conditions, #Trend toward significance p = 0.10 between conditions (Caldwell. 2017).
The scientists' analysis of their subjects ratings of perceived muscle soreness (RPMS) and perceived lower extremity functionality (LEF) revealed that...
  • the caffeine group tended to have lower overall RPMS in the afternoon versus placebo (i.e., main effect of group; 1.1 ± 0.2 vs. 0.5 ± 0.2; p = 0.09). 
  • the caffeine group had significantly lower afternoon RPMS for the legs (main effect of caffeine; 1.3 ± 0.2 vs. 0.5 ± 0.3; p = 0.05), and
  • there was no measurable difference in terms of perceived lower extremity functionality
Overall, these results provide additional evidence that caffeine does not have to be consumed exclusively pre-workout to have a measurable benefit in athletes and gymrats. What remains to be seen, though, is whether the perceived reduction in muscle soreness goes hand in hand with objectively measurable increases in exercise performance and/or markers of recovery in the days after an intense sporting event like the 2015 Hotter’N Hell Hundred.
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Preliminary, but intriguing: With this being only the second study that provides decently convincing evidence that your caffeine addiction could significantly promote crucial aspects of your exercise recovery (reduced muscle soreness in this and increased glycogen resynthesis in the previously cited study by Pedersen et al.), it would be premature for trainers to prescribe a daily dose of two large bowls of coffee to all their athletes (from a mere health perspective this may yet make sense as you've learned in dozens of articles about coffee's health effects here at the SuppVersity). A guilty conscience, on the other hand, should be a thing of the past for all of you who cannot stay away from their beloved coffee after workouts... just make sure that you don't reach a daily caffeine intake that stresses at which the stimulating effects backfire (for many that's > 800mg) | Comment on Facebook!
  • Caldwell, Aaron R., et al. "Effect of Caffeine on Perceived Soreness and Functionality following an Endurance Cycling Event." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2017).
  • Pedersen, David J., et al. "High rates of muscle glycogen resynthesis after exhaustive exercise when carbohydrate is coingested with caffeine." Journal of Applied Physiology 105.1 (2008): 7-13.
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