Energy drinks, high in caffeine, have been marketed as an aid to athletes for years. For those of use with long memories you may remember the Olympic sprinters Daily Thompson helping to sell Lucozade. And, more recently a certain colourful bull seems to have blanket sponsorship of every ‘extreme’ sporting event. But what is the efficacy of caffeine in a sporting context? Does it work or, is it marketing? Let’s find out...
A history of caffeine use in sport
The first known use of caffeine was in the form of cocoa beans by ancient Mesoamericans and caffeine has been used in sport for many years, but it's only recently that scientists have uncovered the benefits of caffeine use. In this piece we shall explore the history of caffeine use in sport and why it is still a popular performance enhancing drug today. Caffeine was first discovered by German scientists during World War I when they found out that coffee helped soldiers to stay awake while on duty. The role caffeine plays in sports has not always been clear, but we are now learning more about its benefits as well as its disadvantages (e.g., dehydration).
Positive and negative effects of caffeine on athletic performance
Caffeine can improve: alertness, stamina, reaction time, mental performance and mood. A study conducted by Dr Owen Rennie showed that rats given doses of caffeine performed better on motor tasks than those without it -- even with a four-hour break between sessions! It also improved their memory recall when faced with complex mazes they had not seen before during testing periods after training.
What are the negative effects? Too much caffeine may cause nervousness, anxiety, nausea or jitters. Athletes should monitor their intake closely so they do not exceed safe levels that have been shown to provide positive benefits without any of the drawbacks – in other words, don’t overdose on the stuff!
Caffeine and exercise performance
Caffeine is proven to improve exercise performance (and this isn’t just us trying to promote our excellent performance enhancing super strong gymBrew coffee - check out what the British Medical Journal have to say!). But to paraphrase their findings, here’s the science. The central nervous system is stimulated by caffeine which reduces fatigue. It also increases exercise performance. Caffeine improves endurance and muscle strength. As such it is no surprise that caffeine has been used (and abused) by athletes for many years.
Why do athletes use caffeine
Caffeine is one of the best-tested ergogenic aids (substances, devices, or practices that enhance an individual's energy use, production, or recovery) and is known to help athletes train harder and longer. Caffeine stimulates the brain and contributes to clearer thinking and greater concentration.
Consuming caffeine enables the body to mobilise fat stores. This enables the body to use fat as the primary source of energy (rather than glycogen, which is stored in the muscles and liver). Why does this matter? If you delay muscle glycogen depletion athletes (or anyone playing sport or physical activity) can exercise for longer periods of time, harder, faster and stronger.
Caffeine for endurance athletes
In 1904, Thomas J Stokley suggested that caffeine might benefit athletes during endurance events who need quick bursts of energy while competing against other runners with similar levels of exhaustion over long distances. Taking moderate amounts of caffeine before, during or after exercise can increase ergogenic aid for endurance athletes. Abstinence from caffeine for seven days, according to some studies, can also increase the efficacy of the caffeine consumption for the serious endurance athlete.
Caffeine improves time to exhaustion and delays the buildup of lactic acid in muscles. These effects are believed to be due mostly to a reduction in perceived exertion or effort, allowing you to work harder without experiencing as much fatigue. This is because caffeine inhibits the activity of an enzyme found inside muscle cells called phosphodiesterase (PDE). PDE breaks down another molecule called cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), which helps transmit nerve signals that stimulate muscular contractions. Inhibition of this breakdown by caffeine reduces concentrations of cAMP, meaning fewer messages will be sent from nerves instructing your muscles to contract - so they'll tire out more slowly during exercise, especially endurance exercises, like cycling.
Caffeine is commonly used by endurance athletes 30 to 60 minutes before races to enhance competitive performance. The ergogenic effect of caffeine is dose-dependent. The maximum effect is seen with doses of 5 to 6 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. For a 150-lb runner this translates to roughly 340-400 mg, or the amount of caffeine you’d get in 14 to 17 ounces of drip brewed coffee. The minimum amount of caffeine the average runner must consume for a measurable ergogenic effect is about 2 mg per kilogram of body weight.
The following is a list of some questions about caffeine and sports. If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact us!
What are the benefits of using caffeine for sports?
Caffeine can improve performance in endurance activities by increasing aerobic capacity and delaying fatigue, allowing athletes to work out longer without getting tired. It also increases alertness so that your mind stays sharp during competitions.
Is caffeine banned in professional sports?
Sometimes, caffeinated drinks are not considered to be supplements. Sometimes caffeine is a banned substance in sport. Caffeine may help with endurance sports but there's limited research on that topic so it's hard to say for sure as all sporting governing bodies will have their own rules and regulations on supplements and banned substances.
Does coffee help build muscle?
Caffeine doesn't build muscle, but it may help with stimulating the release of hormones that promote the growth process. And here at Runnerbean we have a rather excellent coffee called gymBrew which is perfect for people looking for a great pre-workout…
What are some ways people use caffeine to lose weight?
Some research suggests that given with exercise it may boost metabolism temporarily and thus even help people burn more calories than they take in over time; however, this effect doesn't seem very long lasting (perhaps only 12 hours).
How many cups of coffee should I drink to build muscle?
Caffeine is a performance enhancing drug that can help you get the most out of your workouts. For instance, it helps people who run long distances be able to keep going even when they are tired and want to stop. It also works for weight lifters because it gives them more energy so they have an easier time lifting weights or doing other types of exercise. Caffeine does not actually make athletes stronger but instead improves their ability to perform specific tasks in sports such as swimming, running, or sprinting faster and longer with less fatigue.
Is caffeine good for muscle healing after working out?
Caffeine has been shown to accelerate the rehydration process and decrease muscle soreness. Caffeine also increases alertness, which can help with sharpening focus, this is especially helpful for early morning workouts before your body's had time to fully wake up.