The Athletic Benefits of Caffeine

Posted by Megan Fischer-Colbrie on Nov 19, 2013 5:11:00 PM

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On average, Americans consume 300 mg of caffeine per day, amounting to roughly 3 cups of coffee. Elite athletes strive to understand how caffeine boosts their performance for their specific sport, position, or distance. For example, caffeine affects athletes in time-based sports differently than athletes in stop-and-go team sports. 

Benefits of Caffeine
Several clinical trials examined the benefits of caffeine supplements in athletes. The studies concluded that a moderate dose of caffeine, 3 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, consumed approximately 60 minutes before competition will enhance performance. The research also discovered that a high dose of caffeine does not increase athletic performance more than a moderate dose. For instance, an athlete weighing 130 pounds could expect the same results from ingesting one cup of coffee as they would with two. It is important to note that “one cup” varies based on the type of coffee consumed. A “moderate caffeine dose” equates to a cup and a half of generic coffee or 2/3 of a tall drip coffee at Starbucks. Caffeine has a greater impact on endurance-based athletes (swimming, rowing, cycling, running) than power athletes (weight-lifting, gymnastics, field events, and volleyball).  

Why Endurance-Based Athletes Benefit More From Caffeine
Several clinical trials examined the benefits of caffeine supplements in athletes. The studies concluded that a moderate dose of caffeine, 3 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, consumed approximately 60 minutes before competition will enhance performance. The research also discovered that a high dose of caffeine does not increase athletic performance more than a moderate dose. For instance, an athlete weighing 130 pounds could expect the same results from ingesting one cup of coffee as they would with two. It is important to note that “one cup” varies based on the type of coffee consumed. A “moderate caffeine dose” equates to a cup and a half of generic coffee or 2/3 of a tall drip coffee at Starbucks. Caffeine has a greater impact on endurance-based athletes (swimming, rowing, cycling, running) than power athletes (weight-lifting, gymnastics, field events, and volleyball).

Strategies to Optimize Caffeine Supplements

caffeine per serving chart

Two main factors distinguish the impact of caffeine on individuals in the same competition: (1) history of caffeine consumption and (2) method of ingestion. Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain and blocks adenosine in order to prevent a person from feeling tired. Caffeine also increases neuron firing, leading to increased arousal and tension in muscles. However, prior history of caffeine consumption results in habituation in which receptors become desensitized to caffeine exposure. Therefore, athletes with a history of drinking coffee, tea, or energy drinks may exhibit a diminished response to caffeine in performance settings compared to athletes who don’t consume caffeine. In order to increase receptor sensitivity, athletes should remove major sources of caffeine from their diet for at least one month prior to a competition.
Caffeine can be ingested in various methods like dissolving tablets, mixing powder, and other energy drinks. Tablets contain anywhere from 50 to 200 mg of caffeine, so it is important to check the label and use body weight to judge accordingly. Caffeine can have negative consequences on the body like dehydration, stomach aches from acidity, or overconsumption from inability to determine the caffeine content. Athletes should keep this in mind, especially on competition days.

 

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References:

  1. Somogyi, L.P. FDA: Caffeine Intake by the U.S. Population (August 2010)
  2. Ganio et al. Effect of caffeine on sport specific endurance performance: A Systematic Review. (2009)
  3. Pasman et al. The Effect of different dosages of caffeine on endurance performance time. (1994)
  4. Desbrow et al. The effects of different doses of caffeine on endurance cycling time trial performance” (2012)
  5. Woolf et al. Effect of Caffeine as an Ergogenic Aid During Anaerobic Exercise Performance in Caffeine Naïve College Football Players. (2009)

Topics: Nutrition