Should You Use a Protein Supplement With Caffeine?

Athlete pouring liquid collagen into a glass of coffee to make caffeine protein shake


At Frog Fuel, caffeine and collagen are one powerhouse of a combination for athletes of all calibers. 

Still, many athletes shy away from caffeine within protein supplements for one reason or another. While caffeine has a variety of benefits, you may be wondering if you should use a protein powder with caffeine or not.

There are a lot of questions around whether caffeine and collagen really are all they say they're cracked up to be. 

Does caffeine inhibit your absorption of your protein supplement? 

Does caffeine slow your muscle recovery?

Caffeine has long been a performance enhancer for athletic performance, but it hasn’t always been combined with a protein source. So, let’s break down how caffeine works with your body during exercise and if you should be taking caffeine and collagen together. 

How caffeine interacts with your body

How your body reacts to caffeine is a somewhat variable experience, because your body can build up a tolerance for caffeine. 

For instance, if you are a regular coffee drinker but you only drink one cup of coffee in the morning, the effects of an additional caffeine protein shake in the afternoon before a workout may be more dramatic than someone that drinks 4 cups of coffee each morning. 

Regardless of your caffeine tolerance, how your body processes caffeine will essentially be the same as everyone else. 

When you consume caffeine, it is absorbed into your bloodstream. Caffeine is a stimulant and is considered to be nootropic, meaning it stimulates the brain, sensory neurons, and mental performance. 

Beyond stimulating your brain, caffeine has other effects on your body, both positive and negative. Caffeine:

  • May interfere with calcium absorption.

  • May increase your blood pressure.

  • May stimulate the central nervous system, providing an energy boost and increased alertness.

  • May help your body get rid of extra salt and water by increasing urination.
  • May increase stomach acid release, leading to heartburn and an upset stomach, especially when consumed alone.

  • May release the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) that is responsible for your body’s natural “fight or flight” response. This hormone specifically can increase physical performance.

  • May stimulate your motor cortex, which is the part of the brain that signals muscle movement and activation.
  • May increase your body temperature or thermogenesis, helping you burn more calories. 

After consuming caffeine, your blood levels often peak around 90-100 minutes, but caffeine levels can remain high for up to four hours before dropping. Caffeine affects cells throughout your body, which is why it has an impact on both your muscle cells and brain stimulation. 

The reason it has such a strong effect on your brain and overall body stimulation is because caffeine blocks specific receptors in the brain and stimulates certain neurotransmitters, including: 

  • The A1 receptor which prevents sleepiness and can increase your body endurance. 
  • The A2 receptor which raises your dopamine and epinephrine levels. Both of these help to increase your ability to focus and improve power when exercising. 

When the brain’s A2 receptors are blocked, and they begin to release neurotransmitters, that’s when you start to get that euphoric or alert feeling. 

Over time, the amount of caffeine needed to effectively block these receptors and simulate neurotransmitters will increase, which is how people build up a tolerance to caffeine. 

If you are a regular coffee drinker, or even addicted to caffeine already, the impact caffeine has on your workout will vary because of your body’s response. 

5 benefits of caffeine and collagen

Caffeine alone can be a great athletic supplement, but it has become increasingly popular when combined with protein. 

For instance, mixing your caffeine and collagen together not only gives you the benefit of being a stimulant, but it keeps you full from the high-quality protein. This will give you lasting energy along with better muscle recovery. 

So what are the other benefits of adding caffeine to your protein supplement? Here are five of our favorites. 

1. Caffeine may increase aerobic performance

Aerobic activities are often referred to as cardio or can be categorized as endurance activities. These types of athletic pursuits include activities like running, cycling, rowing, HIIT workouts, and most sports. 

Caffeine has long been seen as a very effective stimulant and has been proven to increase endurance among athletes. So much so that some sporting leagues have banned the use of caffeine before events in certain doses.

Part of the reason why caffeine is thought to improve aerobic performance is because it has the ability to reduce the perception of effort put out by the athlete. 

Since caffeine stimulates your brain and interacts with the muscle activation signals, with the right dosage of caffeine and collagen, an athlete may feel as if they are exerting less power and effort than they actually are because the right neurotransmitters are simulated. 

Of the studies conducted on athletes to test the influence of caffeine on endurance performance, they have also found that combined with carbohydrates it tends to have more of an impact. 

2. Caffeine may enhance anaerobic performance 

Anaerobic exercises tend to be shorter with more intense bursts of power. These activities gravitate towards sprints or powerlifting. 

Although the evidence for caffeine improving aerobic performance is obvious, there are far more mixed thoughts regarding the impact of caffeine on performance on anaerobic or short, high-intensity exercises. 

The primary consensus is that for anaerobic performance, caffeine mostly benefits trained athletes versus untrained individuals. 

It is thought that the ergogenic effects of caffeine with anaerobic exercise is shorter and somewhat insignificant unless consumed in high, frequent doses. But, that can be dangerous to do, especially if you already have a caffeine dependence or tolerance of some kind. 

Activities like strength training also seem to have a mixed review when it comes to caffeine and performance. Several studies do show positive effects, especially when doing repetitions with the same weight each time, but that ties things back more to muscular endurance. 

All in all, it does seem like caffeine has the potential to have a positive impact when doing anaerobic exercises but it appears more effective for professional athletes.

3. Caffeine and collagen may lead to more of a fat burn

If one of your fitness goals is to burn more fat and convert more muscle, then adding caffeine could be of benefit. 

Caffeine is often added to weight loss and weight management supplements. Combine caffeine and collagen and you have a recipe for success when it comes to weight management and maintaining lean muscle mass. 

There needs to be more conclusive evidence regarding the amount of fat you burn during exercise when using caffeine as a supplement, but early research is promising. 

One study showed that taking caffeine before exercise effectively increased the release of stored fat by 30% when compared to exercising without caffeine. 

Another reason caffeine may help burn more fat is because of the release of epinephrine and increased heat production which are both thought to burn additional calories and fat

4. Caffeine may help increase focus and intensity 

A big part of why caffeine seems to help professional athletes with anaerobic exercises but might not be as effective with untrained athletes is because of their preexisting ability to focus and engage their muscles under high intensity. 

Caffeine stimulates your brain and muscle communication. So, when combining both that existing mental and physical training with a stimulant like caffeine, they are essentially applying more focus and intensity which improves performance. 

Trained athletes have muscle memory. Caffeine simply enhances what they already possess and know. 

5. Caffeine and collagen may improve muscle recovery

Caffeine and collagen specifically may improve muscle recovery in athletes. Caffeine alone doesn’t necessarily have the ability to improve muscle recovery, but when paired with collagen or even with a mix of carbohydrates, it can speed up muscle recovery. 

Consuming caffeine with carbohydrates may increase glycogen replenishment in your muscles, which is another way of saying it spares muscle carb stores. This is partially due to the increased ability to burn fat, but regardless, this can enhance endurance performance greatly.  

How to safely supplement with caffeine and collagen 

Although caffeine and collagen have many benefits, there are some downsides to consuming caffeine. 

First, remember that caffeine is a stimulant, and you can develop a dependence on it. To avoid this, take note of the amount of caffeine you consume each day. 

Does protein powder have caffeine?

How many cups of coffee do you drink in the morning?

Do you drink tea in the afternoon?

What about pre workout supplements?

Check the ingredients of your workout supplements and keep in mind that there are several beverages that contain caffeine beyond just coffee or energy drinks. 

The average person should avoid consuming more than 400-600 mg of caffeine in one day. To put that into perspective, about five cups of coffee equates to 400 mg of caffeine. 

If you supplement your workouts with caffeine and collagen, one Frog Fuel Ultra with caffeine contains 80 mg of caffeine. Depending on your caffeine intake throughout the day, it should be a safe addition to your workout. 

If you are already drinking upwards of four cups of coffee each day, however, then you should cut back on caffeine intake somewhere else before introducing a caffeine and collagen supplement of any kind. 

If you’re worried about a caffeine dependency from supplementing with caffeine and collagen together, pay close attention to your resting heart rate, blood pressure, sleeping habits, and any signs of withdrawal like a headache if you do skip caffeine for a day. 

Since caffeine has the risk of increasing stomach acid, especially when consuming it alone, the type of protein you combine with caffeine should also be in question. 

For example, consuming whey or pea protein powder with caffeine has a high likelihood of causing bloating or stomach upset. These types of proteins can cause stomach sensitivity, so anyone with an already sensitive stomach is in trouble if caffeine gets added to the mix.  

That extra concern with protein powder is another reason why caffeine and collagen tend to be an optimal combination. This is especially true for easy to absorb liquid collagen supplements like Frog Fuel. 

The easy to digest formula of Frog Fuel liquid collagen can curb any stomach distress when taking a protein supplement. Just remember that caffeine should be consumed with caution and in appropriate amounts. 

There are many reasons why collagen supplements benefit athletes, and mixing caffeine and collagen within the same supplement can truly give you an edge during your workout.

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