Caffeine is the 'drug' of choice for most people in the world. We rely on a cup of joe to give us a jolt in the morning and can of pop to perk us up in the afternoon. But aside from its mood- and focus-enhancing effects, caffeine is also a big player in the realm of sports and exercise.
Caffeine is a big player in the realm of sports and exercise.
A recent analysis published in The International Society of Sports Nutrition aimed to figure out how caffeine affects exercise metabolism and sports performance. After reviewing the literature and compiling many studies' results, the researchers found that caffeine indeed enhances physical performance, stamina, and/or recovery. Many of these studies focused on high endurance sports - cycling, cross-country skiing, swimming, and running.
When they looked at studies that drilled down on a specific sport, some abilities improved while others didn't. For instance, in soccer, caffeine seemed to increase the total distance covered and passing accuracy, but it didn't help with the "T test" in female players. In basketball, it improved free throws but not sprint time.
Caffeine may enhances physical performance, stamina, and/or recovery Photo credit..
So when is the best time to use caffeine, and how much is needed to get the best effect while exercising? According to the study, the sweet spot for the optimal caffeine dose is 3-6 mg/kg. And even though most people ingest caffeine 1 hour before exercise, it's better to wait until the middle or later in an exercise session, ideally when you're more tired.
The results of the studies showed caffeine to have an overall positive effect on exercise performance. But it's important to note that the results can vary for each person. For example, genetics determines if the body breaks down and uses caffeine in a particular way.
Genetics can determine how the body reacts to caffeine. Photo credit..
One study in cyclists discovered that some individuals metabolize caffeine quickly, which enhanced their performance significantly. Another study saw poor performance in people with slow caffeine metabolism.
Another consideration is the source of caffeine. Coffee, tea, soda - these are the most common, but not the only ways, to get caffeine. The health and fitness industry boom has inspired the creation of many other forms of caffeinated products - gels, sports drinks, and bars. These different sources may affect how fast or slow the caffeine affects the body. Caffeine chewing gum, for instance, seems to work more quickly than a capsule with caffeine because it's immediately absorbed in the mouth.
Amount of caffeine in common drinks - FDA.
It's easy to rejoice or despise the quick action and long-lasting effects of caffeine. For some, it's the fuel they need to concentrate and stay alert. But there's a dark side, too. It can disrupt sleep if its effects persist to the evening. And it can trigger anxiety, especially in large amounts.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes these additional uncomfortable side effects with high doses of caffeine:
- Fast heart rate
- Upset stomach
- Feeling of unhappiness (dysphoria)