When I was in grade school, they frequently told us a grim tale about drug use. At first, you use a little, and you feel good. Then you need more to feel good. Then, all of a sudden, you feel terrible unless you have it at all times. They could have been telling us to keep us away from hard street drugs, or warning us about overdoing it with pre-workout caffeine intake. I’m still not entirely certain. Either way, it is a great example of habituation, the process in which we become conditioned or desensitized to the effects of a substance in response to repeated usage. It also raises an interesting question: Does pre-workout caffeine still improve performance if you are a regular caffeine consumer?

Caffeine is one of the most frequently studied performance-enhancing supplements being used today. We have seen ample evidence that it enhances endurance performance [1], sprint performance [2], and resistance training performance [3]. But, as any coffee addict will tell you (myself included), the alertness we feel in response to caffeine intake certainly seems to decrease after habitual consumption. If performance benefits are subject to the same degree of habituation, that’d be some pretty unfortunate news for me and all of my fellow daily coffee drinkers, or people who use caffeinated pre-workout supplements several times per week. Luckily, we have research available to help us uncover some answers.

 

Caffeine Habituation: The Evidence

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