- There is evidence that caffeine is effective in enhancing sports performance in trained athletes. [i]
- Caffeine acts on the central nervous system to reduce fatigue and increase alertness. [ii] [iii][iv]
- Caffeine also has been postulated to have an effect on metabolism and neuromuscular function. i
- Believed to have an ergogenic effect and hence can play a role in concentration, reaction time, skilled physical performance, and effects on both physical and mental performance. iv [v] [vi]
- Ergogenic properties during short-term exercise performance. [vii] [viii]
- Lessens fatigue after repeated high-intensity cyclist sprints. [ix]
- Prolong time to fatigue during endurance exercise. [x] [xi]
- Improved reaction time and muscle power during resistance training and martial arts. [xii] [xiii]
Not All Caffeine is Created EqualJust as with all natural supplements, the purity and source of the caffeine you are consuming matters. This is particularly the case when looking to support your innate athletic and training capacity. These are the absolutes I share with my sports oriented patients when they are looking to augment as many competitive edges that they can and are looking to source pure caffeine. Look for a product that is “pure”, non-GMO (not sourced from genetically modified sources), that comes with a guaranteed certificate of analysis, and that proves what is on the label is actually in the product. Why is this important? Because you work way too hard on building your body and growing its potential to unintentionally sabotage it with a poor quality or contaminated product. Far too many of the athletes and regular patients make a serious mistake when purchasing supplements and that is, “certainly it has to be good otherwise they couldn’t sell it.” Oh boy, that could be a whole other article. All I will say is buyer beware and be informed.
Additive Effect in the ResearchOkay, let’s say you have dialed in your caffeine to your personal optimal dosing levels. Is there any way you can get a little more performance enhancement? Well, in an October 2014 study, in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, the evidence definitely seems promising. [xv] The authors reported: “Boosting nitric oxide production during exercise by various means has been found to improve exercise performance.” The study incorporated the benefits of caffeine and nitric oxide. They concluded that “These results suggest that acute supplementation with a caffeinated nitric oxide releasing lozenge may be a practical and effective means of improving aerobic exercise performance.” xv
Points to ConsiderSince one of the many properties of caffeine is as a stimulant, it does increase heart rate and can alter fine motor control for some individuals, thus sports and activities that require fine motor skill need to dose accordingly. Depending on individual tolerance and sensitivity, it may increase central nervous system stimulation and accentuate pre-performance jitters for those susceptible. We all know that drinking a caffeinated beverage before bed can alter sleep quality, once again varying from person to person. I have many patients that can drink coffee until the moment they go to bed. Whether that is good for them is another topic altogether.
Dosing your Unique ChemistryThere are many theories on how to best get the most out of a caffeine boost. I have found that for most people the following approach works well. Slowly find your body’s threshold for caffeine; too little or too much will both not yield the desired results. Generally caffeine is consumed approximately 60 minutes before one exercises, and again during endurance exercise as fatigue begins to impact performance. Remember, you want to work with your body’s biochemistry, and I have found time and time again a gentle nudge in the right direction often works just as well if not better than a dramatic shove when dosing with caffeine.
[i] Goldstein E et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:5 [ii] McNaughton LR et al. The effects of caffeine ingestion on time trial cycling performance. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2008;(3):320-5. [iii] Hogervorst E et al. Caffeine improves physical and cognitive performance during exhaustive exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008;40(10):1841-51. [iv] Tarnopolsky MA. Effect of caffeine on the neuromuscular system - potential as an ergogenic aid. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008 33(6):1284-9. [v] Glade MJ. Caffeine-Not just a stimulant. Nutrition. 2010 Oct;26(10):932-8. [vi] Burke LM. Caffeine and sports performance. Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 33: 1319–1334 (2008) [vii] Desbrow B et al Caffeine withdrawal and high-intensity endurance cycling performance, Journal of Sports Sciences. 2011 29:5, 509-515 [viii] Gliottoni RC, Meyers JR, Arngrimsson SA, Broglio SP, Motl RW. Effect of caffeine on quadriceps muscle pain during acute cycling exercise in low versus high caffeine consumers. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2009;19(2):150-61 [ix] Paton CD et al. Caffeinated chewing gum increases repeated sprint performance and augments increases in testosterone in competitive cyclists. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010. 110(6):1243-50. [x] Jenkins NT et al. Ergogenic effects of low doses of caffeine on cycling performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2008;18(3):328-42. [xi] Cox GR et al. 2002. Effect of different protocols of caffeine intake on metabolism and endurance performance. J. Appl. Physiol. 93: 990–999 [xii] Souissi M et al. Effects of Morning Caffeine’ Ingestion on Mood States, Simple Reaction Time, and Short-Term Maximal Performance on Elite Judoists. Asian J Sports Med. 2012. 3(3): 161–168 [xiii] Duncan M et al. The effect of caffeine ingestion on mood state and bench press performance to failure. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2011. 25(1)/178 [xiv] Ganio MS, Klau JF, Casa DJ, Armstrong LE, Maresh CM. Effect of caffeine on sport specific endurance performance: a systematic review. J Strength Cond Res. 2009;23(1):315-24 [xv] Lee J et al. Caffeinated Nitric Oxide-releasing Lozenge Improves Cycling Time Trial Performance. Int J Sports Med. 2014 Oct 6