Caffeine and Its Effects on Sports Performance

Caffeine and sports performanceCaffeine is considered one of the most commonly consumed products throughout the world. It is considered a drug in sport, due to its effects on our body’s nervous system; however, it is not illegal. As we know, the most common effect caffeine has is its ability to stimulate us, and keep us awake and alert. It also has many other effects which make it a popular sports aid.

Caffeine is not a prohibited substance in sport (as yet), and its use will vary across different sports, depending on the intensity of the activity and the athlete’s body-weight. The standard recommendation for caffeine intake is 3-6mg/kg of body-weight, normally taken one hour before endurance activities or high-intensity sports; this ensures adequate absorption by the body. Tolerance of caffeine must be considered while taking this as a sporting aid; regular coffee drinkers may need to take a break from caffeine in order for it to have its full effect during sporting activities. Those individuals who do not regularly consume coffee may need a lower dose, due to its stimulatory effects.

There are many sources of caffeine available to us, including coffee (the prime suspect), teas (black and herbal), cocoa, cola drinks, OTC (over the counter) tablets, and high energy drinks and sports drinks, which both contain guarana (a derivative of caffeine). All of these products should be taken under the supervision of a doctor, if you are on other medications (prescription or alternative), as they can interact.

Now let’s look at the effects caffeine has on sports performance. An average dose of 5mg/kg, taken 3-4 hours before intense exercise, will stimulate the oxidation of free fatty acids. This means it allows more glycogen to become available for your working muscles; however, this is thought to be limited to the first 15 minutes of exercise. The other effects caffeine has on sports performance include increased blood-flow to the central nervous system, giving you that feeling of alertness and awareness. Your body will also increase its adrenaline released through an increase in caffeine levels. This adrenaline will stimulate your muscles and improve your performance.

As it is widely published, caffeine also acts as a diuretic on our bodies. During short, intense activities this should not have an effect; however, during long endurance exercises its use can have a negative effect. Therefore adequate hydration techniques must be used.

Finally, it must be made clear that an excess amount of caffeine can have detrimental effects on your body and its performance. For example, an intake of 13mg/kg of body-weight or greater is considered dangerous to your health, as the risk of side-effects also increases. Such side-effects can include gastric distress, anxiety attacks, heart palpitations, and headaches.

Overall, taken in moderation for short or intense activities, caffeine can have some beneficial effects on your body’s performance. Carefully monitored, your body can improve its performance, agility and intensity during the activity and you can excel at your chosen sport or event.

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