We all know and most of us love caffeine, whether it is from coffee, energy drinks, soft drinks or chocolate. We particularly enjoy caffeine on a Monday morning when we need to become more alert. But caffeine not only wakes us up whilst we are at work, but it also improves our performance.
Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance, found in over 60 different plants, and is a stimulant and mild diuretic. Caffeine has diuretic properties when administered in sufficient doses to subjects that do not have a tolerance for it. Regular users, however, develop a strong tolerance to this effect, and studies have generally failed to support the common notion that ordinary consumption of caffeinated beverages contributes significantly to dehydration.
The precise amount of caffeine necessary to produce effects varies from person to person, depending on body size and degree of tolerance to caffeine. It takes less than an hour for caffeine to begin affecting the body, and a mild dose wears off in three to four hours.
The latest result shows that caffeine mainly has an effect on events that are high in intensity and low in duration. The major benefit in which caffeine has on sporting performance is in reducing our rating of perceived effort (basically things don’t feel as hard). For example, you may be able to get through those five hill sprints a bit easier. Furthermore, during periods of 30-120 minutes caffeine has been shown to produce the following benefits:
– Improved muscle contractibility
– Increased time to exhaustion
– Improved concentration
– Enhanced alertness
– Reduced fatigue
In the short-term (under 30 minutes), caffeine can have a detrimental effect on some aspects of performance (for example fine motor control and technique due to over-arousal). Therefore you need to be aware of timing of intake to ensure optimal performance.
Despite having a positive impact on sporting performance, there are some side-effects of caffeine which include dehydration, headaches, high blood pressure, restlessness, anxiety and irritability.
So caffeine not only has a positive impact on waking us up of a morning but also on improving our performance. The amount of caffeine we need will vary depending on the individual as we all have a different tolerance. Although caffeine helps improve performance, individuals need to be aware of the side-effects and thus use sparingly.
In our next update on improving your performance with caffeine we will go into detail of how caffeine can be used to increase performance in long endurance events by helping to conserve carbohydrate stores.