To gain a competitive edge many athletes use caffeine to help boost their energy during training. Caffeine works on the central nervous system (CNS) as an ergogenic aid to reduce fatigue and reduce pain sensations which are commonly felt during longer and intense workouts. Studies are often small and vary depending on the amount of caffeine used to produce differences with training efforts and performance. Recently the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) published their position of caffeine and exercise performance, detailing how is impacts the body and how it can either positively or negatively affect athletic performance.
It’s important to note that not everyone can gain the benefits from caffeine, it’s all based on your genes. Caffeine will only improve your sports performance if you metabolize caffeine quickly. The only way of knowing this is by testing it out during training.
Positive Side Effects of Caffeine
· Increased alertness
· Better concentration
· Feeling more awake and less drowsy
· Increased energy
· Reduced headaches
Negative Side Effects of Caffeine
· May cause jitters and increased heart rate
· May cause tolerance and withdrawal symptoms
· Disrupt sleep (if ingesting 6 hours before bedtime)
· Increase anxiety
· GI distress
How much caffeine should I take before workouts?
Traditional recommended caffeine doses range 3 to 6 mg per kg of body weight before exercise, but the dose-response may plateau at 3 mg per kg. More doesn’t always translate to better results. What does this translate to?
· If you weigh 150# (68 kg), 200-400 mg of caffeine before exercise or spread out throughout a long training session or competition to enhance sports performance.
Tips to consider when using caffeine:
· High doses of caffeine, 6 to 9 mg per kg body weight, may cause negative effects such as jitters, increased heart rate, GI distress, resulting in decreased sports performance.
· Benefits of caffeine may last up to 6 hours and impact training mid-day when consumed early morning, so you may not need to take in additional caffeine for your mid-day training if you already consumed it in the morning.
· Caffeine doses found in coffee, tea, foods and sports nutrition supplements contain anywhere from 25-200 mg of caffeine per serving. If you are sensitive to caffeine, it’s suggested to take smaller doses before training or spread out doses throughout your longer training sessions to avoid excessive heart palpitations and increased heart rate.
· Time your caffeine intake 60 minutes before training, given that this is the time levels of caffeine are at its highest value. Ingesting caffeine during exercise for longer events mid- to- late exercise may be more beneficial than at the start of exercise.
· Optimal timing of caffeine may be dependent on the source and how long your event is. Caffeine chewing gums may be absorbed more quickly than other sources.
· Coffee may not be the best way to gain the benefits from caffeine since doses vary greatly depending on the amount and type of coffee.
· Caffeine loses its effects over time. If you want to see an increase in speed or endurance, consider a “caffeine taper” where you reduce and stop intake 1-2 weeks out. Suggest reducing amount if you have strong withdrawal symptoms stopping caffeine outright.
Remember, as with any nutrition intervention you need to test it out during training and NOT on competition day. Figuring out what type of caffeinated product that works for you and the amount needed before and during training is key to avoid any surprises on competition day!