Caffeine is a substance found naturally in a variety of plants and is regularly consumed by more than 90% of humans. Caffeine is also found in several sports foods, drinks and energy gels – but does it really help to enhance your running performance?
The answer is YES:
- Caffeine appears to enhance the performance of middle and long distance running events in doses as low as 1-3mg/kg body weight. Small doses like this can be found in everyday foods and drinks e.g. coffee, coke, chocolate and some energy gels.
- Larger doses of caffeine does not seem to be more effective in enhancing running performance and may have a negative effect for example in staged multi-day events where it may influence much needed sleep.
- Caffeine is not a diuretic as previously believed. Moderate doses of caffeine do not have a significant effect on the overall hydration status of habitual caffeine users. Also, caffeine-containing drinks provide a significant source of fluids to many runners.
- It is now believed that the performance benefit from consuming caffeine during an endurance event is achieved by central nervous system effects. The perception of fatigue is reduced and the runner is able to maintain running pace for a longer period of time.
How to take caffeine to gain benefit:
- Consume 1-3mg/kg (or 50-200mg) of caffeine at a variety of times e.g. before and throughout the race, or towards the end of the race when you get fatigued.
- Coffee may not be the ideal source for supplementation due to the unpredictability and variability of caffeine content in coffee. It also contains other chemicals that may negate the benefits. Therefore use other sources (see table)
|Brewed Coffee||1 cup||80-135 or more|
|Instant Coffee||1 cup||avg 60 (12-169)|
|Tea||1 cup||avg 27 (9-51)|
|Hot Chocolate||1 cup||5-10|
|Milk Chocolate Bar||60g||5-15|
|Hammer Gel (with caffeine)||33g sachet||25-50 (check label)|
|Powerbar Gel (with caffeine)||40 sachet||25|
**Although caffeine may enhance running performance in most runners, some may be non-respondent to caffeine. It is always best to test the use of caffeine in training before using the tactic in races.