The Sport Information Resource Centre
The Sport Information Resource Centre

Caffeine has a wide range of effects on the body, many of which we are very familiar with. It is frequently used by athletes in an attempt to enhance sport performance, but does it actually work?

Studies have had mixed results since people vary dramatically in their responses to caffeine. It is difficult to know if an athlete will notice a difference in performance, since those who consume caffeine regularly will likely have a higher tolerance to caffeine’s effects compared to an athlete who doesn’t consume it at all.

Caffeine perks:

  • Reduced perception of fatigue (RPE)
  • Stimulates the nervous system, which can lead to greater productivity
  • It reduces the amount of glycogen (carbohydrate) used in the first 15 minutes of exercise by 50% allowing athletes to delay the onset of fatigue.
  • Has been linked to stronger and more powerful muscle contractions 
  • Stimulates the brain and contributes to clearer thinking and increased concentration
  • Ingesting caffeine can have an average of 6-9% improvement in endurance performance.

While caffeine was removed from the World Anti-doping Association (WADA) prohibited list in 2004, it is still part of their monitoring program to assess misuse patterns. As with any change to your nutrition, please consult your physician before proceeding.
 

Excessive caffeine intake can cause various side effects:

  • tremors, heart palpitations, jitters
  • nervousness, irritability
  • gastrointestinal distress

If you plan on introducing caffeine into your training, take a slow approach with gradual increases in intake while keeping a close eye on performance and monitor your body’s response.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Ahrens J, Crixell S, Lloyd L, Walker J. THE PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF CAFFEINE IN WOMEN DURING TREADMILL WALKING. Journal Of Strength & Conditioning Research (Allen Press Publishing Services Inc.). February 2007;21(1):164-168.
2. Goldstein E, Ziegenfuss T, Antonio J, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. Journal Of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition. January 2010;7:1-15.
3. Mickleborough T. Caffeine’s Effect on Time-Trial Performance. Triathlete . June 2010;(314):149-151.
4. SÖKMEN B, ARMSTRONG L, MARESH C, et al. CAFFEINE USE IN SPORTS: CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE ATHLETE. Journal Of Strength & Conditioning Research (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins). May 2008;22(3):978-986.
5. Tunnicliffe J, Erdman K, Reimer R, Lun V, Shearer J. Consumption of dietary caffeine and coffee in physically active populations: physiological interactions. Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism. December 2008;33(6):1301-1310.
6. Vanata D, Mazzino N, Bergosh R, Graham P. Caffeine Improves Athletic Performance among Division II Collegiate Swimmers. Journal Of The Academy Of Nutrition & Dietetics. September 2, 2012;112:A89.