Great news! Seems that caffeine (and here I am thinking of coffee, in particular) is OK and probably “performance enhancing” for endurance sports people. Good news for us coffee drinkers. But if you aren’t a coffee drinker, should you start???
Here are the pluses to being a coffee-drinking runner:
1. Caffeine isn’t as much of a diuretic as was previously touted, unless taken in high doses, so the fear of dehydration from caffeine is less of a major issue.
2. Caffeine heightens alertness and increases performance, helping athletes runner harder and longer. It makes effort seem easier (by about 6%) with improvements in performance of about 12%, more in longer duration type exercise than shorter (8-20 minutes). It is thought that it increases the concentration of hormone-like substances in the brain called beta endorphins which give us a senes of well-being and reduce our sensation of pain…COOL!
3. Caffeine delays fatigue by increasing the levels of free fatty acids in the bloodstream, thereby boosting the fat burning and conserving muscles glycogen (which is a limited resource for muscle work).
4. Caffeine may support/enhance recovery! In a study where cyclists rode hard two days in a row, some had caffeinated drinks after, others did not. It was found that having a drink with caffeine rebuilds glycogen stores 66% more than just a carb drink alone!
Given that caffeine for athletes has been studied quite extensively and found to be enhancing, new products are being added to the shelves regularly with added caffeine, from gels to sports drinks. Be sure to read the labels. You may find yourself jittery and seeking a bathroom if you consume too much at once or if you are not typically a caffeine user!
Dosage ranges from 2-9 mg/kg (or 1.5 to 4 mg/lb) taken one hour before exercise. More is not found to be much better. To see how much caffeine is in typical items, check out the list below:
CHOCOLATE MILK (8 ounces) – 5 MG
GU ROCTANE ENERGY GEL (1 pack) – 35 MG
BOTTLED ICED TEA (16-ounce bottle) – 40 MG
DIET COKE (12-ounce can) – 45 MG
CLIF SHOT BLOKS (3 bloks) – 50 MG
COFFEE ICE CREAM (1 cup) – 58 MG
RED BULL (1 can) – 80 MG
ESPRESSO (2 ounces) – 100 MG
COFFEE, DRIP (8 ounces) – 130 MG
STARBUCKS CAFE LATTE (16 ounces) – 150 MG
So should you add caffeine to your running program? It’s an individual question…a few studies show a link between bone-mineral loss and caffeine (maybe because coffee drinkers opt for coffee over a glass of milk???) Maybe the most performance enhancing thing you can go is get more sleep (which coffee may hamper…). Also, coffee-gutt (and coffee breath) aren’t great when you are at the race and the line up to the port-a-potty is very long and the gun is about to go off…
What is your experience with caffeine and running? Add you thoughts in the comments below.