Just the Jitters or Something More?

For many people a morning cup of coffee or a coke is what is required to get the motor turning for a productive day of work.  That jolt of caffeine into the blood stream is like rocket fuel that propels people into throughout the day and probably for some a 2pm cup might be just the ticket for that post lunch food coma that gets you through the final hump of the day. One thing that you might not realize is that 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine, or caffeine, that blessed stimulant in coffee, chocolate and so much more, can actually help your athletic performance!  Research shows that for more endurance based sports, longer than roughly 5 minutes, improvements in performance can be seen. These performance benefits have a wide range of possibilities.  Since caffeine is a stimulant, like a great deal of drugs out there, it’s affects are hormonal, cardiovascular, muscular and also affects the central nervous system. Each individual has varying sensitivity to caffeine and research clearly shows that.  The ranges of caffeine that was proven effective varies from as low as 68mg to as much as 204mg, which either way is significantly less than a strongly brewed cup of coffee.  Much like anything else related to training you need to test this prior to event day.  Each person responds to caffeine differently and higher quantities do not always produce greater results.  Like many other stimulants it is possible to produce a tolerance to caffeine and therefore greater amounts will be required to equal the same response.  Likewise you can also suffer from the negative side affects of suddenly decreasing your total intake. How to best utilize:

  • It is not the best idea to introduce caffeine into your training the day of a big race or event.
  • Start with the smallest amount possible
    • Excessive amounts can cause unwanted results such as feeling jittery, anxiety or headaches
  • If caffeine is a part of your normal daily intake you will need to increase the amount to receive the same results.
  • If you are unable to find desirable results stop usage

Burke L, Cort M, Cox G, Crawford R, Desbrow B, Farthing L, Minehan M, Shaw N, Warnes O. Supplements and sports foods. In: Burke L, Deakin V. Clinical Sports Nutrition. 3rd ed. McGraw-Hill, 2006;485–581.Desbrow B. Leveritt M. Well-trained endurance athletes’ knowledge, insight, and experience of caffeine use. Int J Sports Nutr Exerc Metab 2007;17:328–339.Sokmen B, Armstrong LE, Kraemer WJ, Casa DJ, Dias JC, Judelson DA, Maresh CM. Caffeine use in sports: considerations for the athlete. J Strength Conditioning Res 2008;22:978–986.

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