There exists a powerful substance that significantly enhances physical and mental performance with just a single dose. The US Special Forces use it to heighten performance and alertness. According to a study published in Science Direct, 85% of the US population consumes this substance daily in the form of coffee, soft drinks, and energy drinks. This substance is caffeine.
One of the most effective exercise supplements available, caffeine stimulates the central nervous system to reduce fatigue and boost performance. It is also cheap and relatively safe to use, therefore, it’s no surprise that athletes often use this for performance enhancement. But just how potent is caffeine at improving performance?
A study conducted by researchers at the Dublin City University in Ireland reported their findings in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. They found that consuming caffeine before a high-intensity aerobic activity could improve athletic performance, but only under specific conditions.
The researchers arrived at these results by testing the impact of caffeine on 18 men who belonged to a sports team. They were asked to take part in 10 40-meter sprints. Before each sprint, the athletes were given gum to chew. Some subjects received caffeinated gum that contained caffeine levels equivalent to two cups of coffee, while the others were given non-caffeinated gum. Another metric taken into account was the daily caffeine intake of each athlete.
The study showed that caffeinated gum had little impact on athletes who consume caffeine regularly. They saw their performance decline with repeated sprint tests. On the other hand, athletes who had a low daily caffeine intake performed better. They maintained their performance through all the 10 sprint tests.
Based on the study, for caffeine to enhance an athlete’s performance, they would need to be consuming less than 40mg of caffeine per day habitually. For perspective, a single cup of coffee contains between 80-100mg of caffeine. This equates to an athlete drinking less than one cup of coffee per day. The researchers have stated that regular intake of caffeine can disrupt its performance-enhancing benefits. Consuming above 130mg of caffeine per day reduces the body’s sensitivity to it and this reduces its potency.
Looking at the results, the researchers have recommended that athletes who consume caffeine regularly should lower their intake of the drug in the weeks leading up to a sports performance.
This may seem a bit difficult for those who drink coffee regularly. In such cases, they could try switching to decaffeinated coffee. It would provide the taste of coffee and the caffeine levels would be too low to disrupt the body’s caffeine sensitivity.
Athletes always seek to perform to their best, and that is why it’s important for them to understand what will assist them better and what will not. It would be helpful to consume caffeine in moderation and save it for key events where an extra boost would be crucial.
Dr. Joe Havlick