A study carried out at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, led by Dr. Nicholas Gant has shown that caffeine may help with muscle fatigue caused by exercise.
The chemicals released during rigorous exercise can affect the entire central nervous system, specifically its’ ability to drive muscle functions.
This affects not only the muscles that we targeted during the exercise, but even those that control the movement and focusing of the eyes. It’s not believed that the caffeine within coffee may help to prevent that effect.
The details of their research, which has been published in the journal Scientific Reports, focuses on the what is called central fatigue, a diminishing of the nervous system’s ability to control muscle movement due to high levels of recent activity.
In their study, the researchers explain that vigorous exercise can lower the central nervous system’s ability to drive muscle function, resulting in what is known as central fatigue. This most commonly presents itself as fatigue of the muscles being used, such as a bicyclist’s legs feeling tired after a long ride.
However, it’s postulated that this may also affect other muscles that aren’t overly exerted during the exercise at all.
To verify, Dr. Gant and his team constructed an experiment that involved two groups of cyclists that were monitored during a 3 hour ride. One group consumed caffeine during their ride, an amount equal to two cups of coffee, while the other group was given a placebo.
At the end of the 3 hour session, the riders’ eyes were tested with the use of a head-fixed eye-tracking system. Measurements of the eyes movements indicate that not only did the strenuous exercise induce symptoms of central fatigue, any impairment to eye movement was remedied with caffeine.
The results show that caffeine is responsible for indirectly boosting the activity of certain chemicals that relay signals between brains cells, called neurotransmitters. These findings support the results of other previous studies which have suggested that impairments in neurotransmitter activity might be responsible for central fatigue.
“Interestingly, the areas of the brain that process visual information are robust to fatigue. It’s the pathways that control eye movements that seem to be our weakest link,” says Dr. Gant, adding “These results are important because our eyes must move quickly to capture new information. But there’s hope for coffee drinkers because this visual impairment can be prevented by consuming caffeine”