8 popular sources of caffeine: key differences

Before you a detailed analysis of the most popular sources of caffeine used in food additives. Do you know what is energizing your day?

Author: Chris Lockwood, Ph.D., a certified specialist in power and general physical training

Without much exaggeration, it can be said that caffeine in the form of beverages is widespread. A recent survey of 24808 Americans showed that 89% of adults in the United States regularly consume caffeine, and 98% of this psychotropic substance enters our body in the form of a drink. Men on average receive about 240 mg of caffeine per day, and women – 183 mg.

In a word, almost all of us in ordinary life drink drinks with caffeine, and do it regularly.

And this is not to mention what is happening in the gyms. Although the survey did not separate people by sex and age, I would venture to assume that the majority of consumers of sports nutrition are in 10% of the most active consumers of caffeine – those who get an average of 436 to 1066 mg of caffeine every day.

You love him. You need it (at least, you think so – but this is a topic for a separate conversation). But from what do you get it? In the post-ephedrine era, companies are trying to isolate their products against competitors by incorporating caffeine from various sources. And this raises a lot of questions. How is one source of caffeine better than another? Is a mixture of caffeine from different sources better than pure caffeine?

Being one of those who plans, conducts and publishes scientific works devoted to sports nutrition, and who from personal experience knows the features of branding and marketing, I am in a unique position. I see the sports nutrition industry from the inside and I know the secrets about various sources of caffeine, presented today in fat burners, pre-training complexes and energy mixtures. However, I'm not going to waste your time repeating the trivial truths about caffeine – what it is, what dosages it contains in regular drinks, how safe and effective. Many articles are devoted to these questions, and you can easily find all the necessary information.

Instead, I want to teach you to identify specific ingredients with caffeine, see how much caffeine you get from each source, understand why the developer has included this component in the product, and when it is better to use one or another caffeine source.

You can create a lot of options for "synthesized" caffeine and each of them to assign their own chemical name, only to be profitable to introduce a beginner to a competitive market. We will consider the most common ingredients, the names of which you have probably met on the labels of food additives.

  • Other names: caffeine, guaranine, 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine.

Anhydrous caffeine is a cheap raw material with a high percentage of caffeine, high stability and good solubility. All this makes it very attractive for manufacturers who want to charge the product with stimulants and not go beyond the budget. Although natural forms of anhydrous caffeine are also available, there is no data comparing the physiological differences between natural and synthesized caffeine. Most companies use a much cheaper and easily available synthesized form.

The lion's share of our knowledge of caffeine – including those that manufacturers use to protect themselves from accusations of using caffeine from any source – is almost entirely based on experiments with anhydrous caffeine. For example, we can confidently state that caffeine in anhydrous form is rapidly absorbed into the circulatory system and reaches its maximum concentration in the blood after 30-60 minutes after ingestion. During this period, it is distributed throughout the body and overcomes the blood-brain barrier, and 2% or less is excreted (unchanged) in the urine.

In terms of sports nutrition, anhydrous caffeine directly "increases the strength, power and performance of skeletal muscles," and this is proven in a study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology. In other words, theoretically, it can improve the effectiveness of all that happens in the gym and other athletic arenas. Companies that adhere to the principle of scientifically based advertising announcements often use anhydrous caffeine in dosages tested in human experiments.

For example, about 6 mg of caffeine (anhydrous form) per 1 kg of body weight (or about 480 mg of caffeine for a person weighing 80 kg) taken an hour before the load test on a veloergometer, increase the time to exhaustion by 23% and slightly increase the use of fats in The quality of fuel, about 3%.

In an earlier study that used a similar dose of caffeine, fat burning increased at rest, but not during physical activity. In addition, the level of stimulating hormones adrenaline (epinephrine) and norepinephrine (norepinephrine) increased significantly both at rest and during physical activity.

Can I apply this data to the morning cup of coffee? Experiments have shown that pure caffeine is more reliable in terms of increasing physical performance than a comparable portion of caffeine from regular coffee. In particular, in one experiment it was found that 4,6 mg of caffeine per 1 kg of body weight (i.e., about 370 mg of caffeine for a person weighing 80 kg) in the form of a food additive with anhydrous caffeine increased physical performance on the treadmill and increased secretion adrenaline, than a similar dose of caffeine from natural coffee.

Therefore, coffee should have some natural ingredients that reduce the effectiveness of caffeine as a stimulant and booster of physical performance. However, coffee has also scientifically proven useful properties, which we will lose, replacing it with pure caffeine.

Verdict. We know about the effects of anhydrous caffeine, and these effects are predictable. To date, it remains the standard.

  • Percent caffeine content: 45-55%, that is, 100 mg of caffeine citrate included in the formulation contains approximately 45-55 mg of caffeine.

However, as it turned out, caffeine citrate has more pronounced antibacterial activity. In addition, it has a lower pH. This helps to restrain the growth of microorganisms and can increase the shelf life of the product.

Verdict. Few studies compare caffeine citrate with pure caffeine, or with other forms of caffeine, for that matter.

At the moment, such statements are absolutely speculative. There are no studies of pharmacokinetic, physiological or toxicological properties confirming the increased efficacy or safety of dicothein malate compared to other forms of caffeine.

Verdict. Today there is no reason to think that dicofoin malate is somewhat superior to the more popular and better-studied forms of caffeine. All advertising statements should be treated skeptically.

Now let's talk about the most popular plant sources of caffeine, which part or what parts of the plants we use, and how much caffeine is contained in them (in dry matter). I listed the plants in descending order of the natural caffeine content.

  • Other names: camellia chinese, green tea, green tea extract, black tea, tea, oolong tea

As an illustration, let's take the green tea extract from Met-RX. The label indicates that two capsules contain 80 mg of caffeine. On the other hand, a similar product from Now Foods boasts only 16 mg of caffeine in the capsule. Does this mean that one supplement is better than another? Not always. Caffeine is only one of the active components of the tea extract.

The good news is that the effectiveness of tea was compared with anhydrous caffeine in many experiments, and there are much more such works than with other plant sources considered in this article. Also, scientists compared the effects of different types of tea. For example, green tea has a greater effect on energy metabolism than black tea.

The concentration of active ingredients varies significantly, depending on the type of tea and the extraction method used. The concentration of caffeine is highest in black tea, followed by tea oolong tea and green tea, but EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) and total catechin content are maximum in green tea, followed by oolong tea and black tea. In addition to the role of powerful antioxidants, catechins have a positive effect on fat metabolism, vasodilation and cholesterol levels.

Verdict. Tea extracts have many useful properties, but the level of caffeine can fluctuate in a wide range. Perhaps, it is worth to find out how much caffeine in your supplement, especially if you take it along with other stimulants.

Despite the obvious shortcomings in the planning and methodology of several experiments comparing guarana with caffeine, there is no doubt that guarana affects mental activity, energy and mood, and its effect does not depend on the dose of caffeine in the product.

Also, there are constant reports that the stimulating effect of guarana is enhanced if taken without carbohydrates and against a background of low blood sugar. The effective dose is somewhere between 75 and 300 mg when using an extract of guarana fruit with 12% caffeine content. However, the percentage of caffeine can vary in a wide range, depending on the extraction method and the part of the plant used (leaves or fruits).

Verdict. As with green tea, the amount of caffeine ranges from 7 to 50%, so do not consider guarana a mild stimulant, especially if you take it with other forms of caffeine and stimulants.

  • Other names: coffee arabica, green coffee extract, pure coffee

On the other hand, in the extract of green coffee beans often high content of chlorogenic acid (which is in its own way useful for health), but less caffeine. Most often the label on the extract of green coffee beans looks like this:

Extract of green coffee beans (Arabica coffee)

(min 50% chlorogenic acid) (up to 12 mg natural caffeine content)

Verdict. If you are determined to find a natural substitute for synthesized anhydrous caffeine with a similar effect on physical performance, the coffee extract can become it. But carefully read the label to ensure that you get everything you expect.

  • Other names: cola nut, Cola acuminata

There is no scientific evidence comparing the effects on people of the cola nut and pure caffeine, but experiments on rodents and dogs indicate a response similar to caffeine. For example, it has been shown that pure caffeine is as effective as a cola nut in terms of reducing body weight and increasing the uptake of glucose by skeletal muscles.

Scientists have identified one possible side effect of the cola nut extract. When used for 6 weeks at a dosage equivalent to a human 0,33 mg, 0,97 mg or 1,63 mg per 1 kg body weight per day (or 26, 77 or 130 mg for an adult human weighing 80 kg), there was a significant decrease in the number of sperm, testosterone and luteinizing hormone in male rats.

Verdict. If it is important for you to have a natural source of caffeine, the cola nut can come to the court. Plus, he can raise oxygenation of the blood and increase concentration of attention. Just remember the possible side effects of this nut!

  • Other names: holly Paraguayan, Paraguayan tea tree

For example, if used for three weeks at a dosage equivalent to a human 4 mg or 8 mg per 1 kg body weight per day (or 320 or 640 mg for an adult human weighing 80 kg), a significant slowdown in body weight gain, fat mass and the amount of food consumed in mice fed fatty foods. And the higher the dose, the stronger the effect.

Also in rodent experiments, the Paraguayan holly extract proved to be a potent stimulant with neuroprotective properties that increases motor activity and brain activity. However, there are no studies directly comparing the effect of mate and anhydrous caffeine.

Verdict. Keep in mind that in the extract of mate can be from 2 to 50% of caffeine, depending on the raw materials used, so it is difficult to calculate the exact dose of caffeine based on the information on the label. As in the case of tea and coffee, it's much easier to find out how much caffeine you got by using natural mate in its pure form.


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