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Does Caffeine Help Muscle Pain? How to Incorporate It Into Your Diet

young woman having coffee after workout

A feel-good cup of Joe can help you stay awake, increase your focus, and reduce inflammation. Coffee, regardless of whether it is regular or decaf, contains certain compounds that have potential health benefits such as lowering the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even specific types of cancer. But did you know that caffeine can ease muscle pain? Studies suggest that keeping the caffeine in your coffee may boost your muscles’ recovery after a strenuous workout and ease chronic pain during computer work. Continue reading to find out more.

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Caffeine & Muscle Recovery After Exercise

In 2019, a study from the National Taiwan Normal University showed that ingesting caffeine reduced delayed muscle soreness and boosted recovery after heavy exercise. In this study, males seemed to be more responsive to caffeine than females. However, a 2006 study from the University of Illinois followed female cyclists who reported that their muscle pain was also lessened after taking caffeine. Thus, the effects seem to be mutual between both sexes.

muscular man drinking sports nutrition sitting in the gym
Image Credit: RossHelen, Shutterstock

Caffeine & Muscle Pain in the Workplace

Another study in 2012 examined caffeine use in the office space. Out of the 48 participants in this study, 22 had chronic pain and 26 reported themselves as pain-free. Individuals who drank coffee before starting their computer work had significantly less neck and shoulder pain than those who had none—seemingly regardless of their prior pain status.

Some pain relievers such as Excedrin Extra Strength already list caffeine as an ingredient. Many people take this medicine for migraines, and coffee is often cited as a common cure for a headaches. Caffeine constricts the blood vessels, which are swollen during a migraine. This is why taking a pain reliever and drinking a cup of coffee might help a bad headache.

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How to Incorporate Caffeine into your Diet

As you can see, there are several studies that verify that caffeine may help reduce muscle pain and increase muscle recovery. So, there’s another good reason why you should be drinking coffee. Of course, coffee isn’t the only way to give your body some caffeine. Some teas, energy drinks, sodas, and even some foods like chocolate contain caffeine. However, not all sources of caffeine are equally beneficial.

Sugary sodas have potential side effects such as obesity and kidney troubles. Specialty coffee drinks such as flavored lattes can pack on the sugar, calories, and fat. Additionally, caffeine is artificially added to sodas and energy drinks, but it’s naturally found in chocolate, coffee, and tea. You’ll want to take all of these things into consideration when adding caffeine to your diet.

If you’re seeking a health-conscious choice, black coffee and tea are the best sources of caffeine and host a variety of other advantages. For example, a black ginger tea not only contains caffeine but also features ginger, an herb universally acknowledged to reduce inflammation and ease stomach upset.

a young woman drinking coffee
Image Credit: MART PRODUCTION, Pexels

When Caffeine Can Be a Headache

A word to the wise: there’s always a point where a good thing can become a bad thing. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that the average adult not consume more than 400 mg of caffeine in a day. This is about 4-6 cups of coffee brewed at home, or one or two drinks at Starbucks.

Keep in mind that commercial coffee shops often sell more densely caffeinated coffee than brands found in the grocery store, and caffeine can sneak into common foods such as chocolate. Also, the 400 mg recommendation varies greatly according to the individual’s health condition. For example, it’s often recommended that senior adults and pregnant women should limit their intake of caffeine to no more than two cups per day or sometimes eliminate it altogether.

Because caffeine temporarily constricts blood vessels, studies have shown that elevated levels of caffeine may increase pain for individuals suffering from nerve pain. Someone with nerve pain may want to skip the caffeinated beverages or at least consume them in moderation.

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Studies suggest that the average adult who consumes 400 mg of caffeine or less per day might have reduced muscle pain caused by exercise, headaches, or computer work. Additionally, black coffee and tea offer more health benefits in addition to caffeine than their counterparts. This may be a good reason to keep a cup of coffee near your desk during the workday or hot and ready before your morning run.

Read More: Caffeine Intake for Older Men: Science-Based Facts!

Featured Image Credit: bruce mars, Unsplash


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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