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Caffeine May Ease the 'Ouch' of Exercise

Caffeine Jolt May Prevent Exercise-Induced Muscle Pain
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WebMD Health News

Sept. 17, 2003 -- Your morning cup of coffee may do more than give you a jolt to get you going, it may also make your workout less painful.

A new study suggests that caffeine reduces exercise-induced muscle pain. Researchers say pain-relieving effects of caffeine may actually help explain why caffeine has been shown to improve endurance.

Researchers say the mechanisms behind what causes muscle pain aren't clearly understood because different tissues in the body can trigger different types of pain, depending on the individual.

"Muscle contractions produce a host of biochemicals that can stimulate pain," says researcher Patrick O'Connor, professor of exercise science at the University of Georgia, in a news release.

Caffeine Blunts Muscle Pain

In this study, researchers monitored 16 young men as they rode a stationary bicycle for 30 minutes on two separate days. The intensity of the exercise was the same on both days and was designed to be strenuous and induce muscle pain.

On each day, the participants took either a caffeine pill or placebo pill one hour before the exercise session.

The study showed that the riders reported substantially less pain in their thigh muscles after taking the caffeine pill than when they took the placebo.

But researchers say the effects of caffeine on reducing muscle pain were less significant among heavy caffeine users because the caffeine had altered their pain receptors.

The results appear in the August issue of the Journal of Pain.

But there are still more questions that need answering. Researcher Robert Motl, assistant professor of kinesiology at University of Illinois says, "The next step is to learn how caffeine helps people feel less muscle pain during exercise. We don't know yet whether the caffeine is acting on muscles or the brain."

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