When the IOC (International Olympic Committee) released a statement that banned athletes from consuming more than 12 micrograms (ug) of caffeine per milliliter of urine prior to competition, you can’t help but ask how this delicious beverage that starts and ends almost every club ride or group training run innocently found itself amongst the likes of EPO and Human Growth Hormones on the IOC’s banned substance list.
Although found on the IOC’s banned substance list, 12 ug of caffeine per milliliter of urine is an excessively high amount for just about any caffeine slurping addict (like myself), and when consumed in moderation can help trigger both physiological and psychological benefits on your training and racing performances.
With more than 74 scientific studies supporting the use of caffeine for both endurance and short term exercise, I’ve deciphered a list down to 5 key reasons on why caffeine can benefit your performance…
1. Increased mental alertness and mood enhancer.
In addition to physical benefits, caffeine has been proven to act upon the central nervous system to stimulate the brain and all major nerves, resulting in enhanced cognitive functions – such as improved concentration, memory and clear thought.
2. Reduced amount of pain you perceive before exercise.
In a study conducted by the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, it was reviled that a cup of coffee can significantly reduce the amount of pain perceived. A separate study has also proven that a moderate dose of caffeine can reduce post-exercise soreness by up to 48 percent.
3. Increased usage of fat stores.
Caffeine has been proven to help mobilize fat stores, thus enabling the body to use fat as a primary energy source during low intensity training. By utilizing fat as an energy source, the body is able to use spare glycogen (an additional fuel source stored in the muscles and liver), delaying glycogen depletion.
4. Delay time to exhaustion.
A study conducted by the Coventry University in England found that athletes who consumed 179mg of caffeine an hour before a training session were able to “invest more effort” in the latter half of their workout in comparison to when athletes consumed a placebo beverage an hour before training.
5. Boost recovery.
According to the American Physiological Society, consuming a carbohydrate drink containing caffeine after a workout increased muscle glycogen by 66 percent when compared to a carbohydrate only drink.
By now you’re probably half way to the kitchen (or nearest Starbucks) ready to grab your next fix – but along with the positives come the negatives…
It’s important to figure out how beneficial caffeine is to you personally. Although these studies support an average of a 12 percent improvement in performance, they fail to take into consideration the effects of how caffeine can hinder your performance. For example, magnifying those pre-race nervous with the “caffeine jitters”. Or worse, giving you some unexpected bowl movements on the start line. So my suggestion is to play around with your caffeine intake personally to find out how much you can handle before or during a race by perfecting it during training.
The suggested intake to best enhance your race day performance is to be 3 – 9 mg per kg (or 1.5 – 4 mg per lb) of body weight one hour before exercise. So for a 75kg athlete, that’s anything between 225 and 675 mg of caffeine or 2 – 3 cups of brewed coffee.
In summary, caffeine has been proven to enhance both your performance and recovery. However, as with any supplement, it’s important to use it responsibly and know the effects that it has on you personally before using it in either an important training session or race event.