While sitting at our 3rd cup of coffee this morning (which is kind of unusual for us – but the ladies were in hardcore shopping mode) we were thinking about the positive or negative effects of caffeine in terms of athletic performance.
Back in the day caffeine – which is present in roughly 100 plants (coffee plant, tea plant, guarana, chocolate and many more) – was actually a banned substance back in the day. Until 2004 that was when the WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) decided to take it off the list. Partially because it was almost impossible for a human to reach the maximum allowed levels of caffeine in the blood stream and partially because caffeine is simply present in way too many foods and drinks.
Coffee is developing it’s full benefits after about 30-45 minutes and they last in average somewhere between 3-4 hours. A boost in mental alertness, feeling more awake and a prolonged attention span are typical signs of caffeine intake. In addition caffeine is know to boost the oxygen intake as well as the athletic endurance as Costill has proven back in 1978 already. The intake of 330mg (2-3 small cups of coffee) of caffeine was sufficient enough to significantly boost the performance on an indoor trainer.
Studies have shown that the most sufficient amounts are somewhere between 3-6mg per Kilogram of body weight (roughly 2-3mg per 2 pounds) Any more than that does not seem to improve the positive effects of caffeine intake.
It is not a surprise at all that the quickest intake of caffeine is via caffeine chews as the oral mucosa is absorbing it in the fastest way possible.
Studies that are based on longer, slower workouts seem to be clear whereas there is very varying results in tests based on short and hard workouts. There is also a clear indication that the individual reaction to caffeine can vary from person to person. The reasons for this are not entirely proven yet but one very likely scenario lies in the habits of each person. Regular coffee drinkers seem to show less improvement in performance than athletes who enjoy coffee rather sporadic. ( we remember an interview with Chris Macca McCormack in which he mentioned not to drink coffee for 4 weeks before a race until the final race day).
Other possible effect from caffeine may be an improved metabolism / increased use of body fat when burning calories. Studies to this are not clear yet though. A study on the University of Illinois also shows a slight reduction in pain when working out on caffeine. Mainly reduced muscular pain after hard workouts.
You see – caffeine may very well have positive effects on your athletic endurance performance. You just might wanna stay away from too much coffee every day if you wanna enjoy the full benefits on race day. In addition to that – coffee is very acidic and works against the principles of an alkaline nutrition. Try it out and find the right dose for you and your body!