The Relationship Between Caffeine And Athletic Performance

A few decades ago, people frowned on the idea of drinking coffee or other beverages before workouts. Many believed caffeine having a mildly diuretic effect would increase a person’s risk of dehydration if they consumed caffeinated beverages before workouts. However, new research tells us that caffeine’s diuretic effect doesn’t increase a person’s risk of dehydration. 

That’s good news for the 66 percent of the global population that consumes about three cups of coffee daily. It turns out your regular morning routine improves athletic performance in more than one way.

Research indicates that drinking coffee before workouts lead to improved endurance, a two percent increase in time-trial test completion time, and a three percent increase in mean power output. It also showed that caffeine increases the hitting accuracy of golf and tennis players when taken before matches.  


Understanding The Way Caffeine Affects Athletic Performance

Let’s take a more detailed look at some of the ways consuming caffeine before workouts or athletic activities improves performance:


1) It Improves Overall Athletic Performance

Multiple studies have shown caffeine to improve different aspects of athletic performance. Some benefits of small to moderate caffeine consumption include enhanced throwing, jumping, sprinting, muscular endurance, muscular strength, and movement velocity. 

The athletic benefits of coffee were enough to get major anti-doping agencies like the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to ban its use in 1984 and 2000, respectively. Both organizations eventually removed caffeine from their banned substances list in 2004, but its use in sports continues to be closely monitored. 


2) Provides A Significant Boost To Aerobic Endurance

Improved aerobic endurance is arguably the biggest benefit of consuming caffeine before athletic activities. It allows you to work out harder than you usually would, making your training sessions more effective. Improved aerobic endurance also allows you to perform at a higher level since your form is one of the first things affected by fatigue. About three to six milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body fat is enough to get you these benefits. If you’re wondering, a cup of coffee contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine. 

Aim to consume coffee about 60 minutes before your training session or competition. That’s assuming you get your caffeine from sources like coffee or tea. Other options like caffeine gum deliver caffeine into your system a lot faster. 


3) Everyone Gets To Enjoy The Performance-Enhancing Benefits Of Caffeine

Everyone benefits from the performance-enhancing benefits of caffeine regardless of their fitness level. Research shows people of all fitness levels show increased endurance and strength after supplementing with caffeine before physically intense activities. 

However, habitual caffeine consumption reduces these benefits since it increases the body’s tolerance for caffeine. 


4) Caffeine Enhances Cognitive Function

Caffeine consumption has been shown to improve cognitive function in most people. It improves performance in activities that rely on working memory and improves reflexes. Caffeine reduces anxiety and hedonic tone at low doses, but the opposite is true in high doses. 

The improved cognitive function caffeine provides increases concentration during athletic activities, leading to a higher level of performance. Sleep-deprived people also benefit from the increased cognitive function of caffeine. 


5) Caffeine Improves Anaerobic And Aerobic Performance

Pre-workouts and energy drinks loaded with caffeine have been shown to increase aerobic and anaerobic performance in the gym. This allows you to work out harder for more extended periods and get more out of your workouts. 


6) Caffeine Can Help With Fat Loss

Studies show that caffeine supplementation can increase the mobilization of fatty acids secreted from adipose tissue. These fatty acids are transported to muscles and used as an energy source. These studies also show that caffeine supplementation before workouts increases fat utilization, mainly when performed after a fasting period. 

The data also shows that people who do not exercise regularly are more likely to enjoy the fat-burning benefits of caffeine. 


Figuring Out The Correct Dosage Of Caffeine 


According to the Mayo Clinic, about 400mg of caffeine daily is safe for most healthy adults. That comes out to about four cups of coffee daily. However, anything more than 300mg of caffeine daily might hinder your athletic performance instead of boosting it. High doses of caffeine can lead to side effects like postural sway, increased anxiety, and muscle tremors, which hinders performance. 

Aim to consume about 3mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight to get the most out of caffeine supplementation. 


Risks Associated With Caffeine

Single doses that contain less than 200mg of caffeine and less than a total of 400mg of caffeine are considered safe for most adults. This comes down to about three to five cups of coffee per day to safely enjoy the performance-enhancing benefits of caffeine, like improved muscle endurance, muscular strength, and movement velocity. 

However, excessive caffeine consumption is associated with health risks like fast heart rate, dizziness, headaches, restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety. 

  • Restlessness and shakiness
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fast heart rate
  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety

Caffeine was once believed to increase the risk of heart disease and heart attacks, but newer studies have shown conflicting results. People who regularly consume moderate amounts of caffeine have a lower risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and type-2 diabetes. Caffeine consumption also lowers the risk of total mortality, so people who consume caffeine generally live longer. 

Dressing up your coffee with sugar and cream can reduce the health benefits you get from it. Sugar is well known for its many adverse effects, like increasing your risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Sugar is also loaded with calories, increasing your risk of ending up with a calorie surplus, which leads to fat deposits building up on your frame. 

Studies that show the health benefits of coffee are typically performed using black coffee. Fancy coffee drinks like Frappuccinos do not fall under this umbrella since they can contain up to 800 calories a cup. A single cup of such per day is enough to lead to weight gain if your eating habits stay the same. 


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