Caffeine has been shown to improve performance. There are several different mechanisms that it is proposed to work, which in basic terms include:
- Decreasing perception of effort
- Sparing glycogen by increasing lipolysis (the breakdown of fats)
- Increasing excitability of the muscle fibers
The most likely effects on performance are due to caffeine's stimulant properties and ability to reduce perceived exertion.
Caffeine is not only found in coffee, although it is the most common means of intake. Caffeine can be ingested via tablets, teas, cocoa beans and cola nuts.
Blood levels of caffeine rise and peak at about 60 minutes post-ingestion. I recommend drinking or ingesting your caffeine 1 hour before your event starts to be pumped and ready to go on the line.
The recommended dosage, based on outcomes from several studies, is from three to six milligrams of caffeine per kilgram of body weight. Going above this will not provide increased benefits.
Example of four mg/kg of caffeine for a 150-pound athlete would be 272 mg of caffeine. Here are some common sources of caffeine so you can see what you would have to drink to take in this amount. Calculate your own:
- 8-ounce Starbucks coffee = 180 mg
- 12-ounce Starbucks coffee = 260 mg
- 5-ounce of 5 min brew tea = 20-50 mg
- 1 can of Coca Cola = 46 mg
- No Doz = 200 mg per tablet
- Espresso = 75 mg solo/150mg dopio
Keep in mind that before your event your focus is also on optimal hydration and drinking fluids. For this reason if you want to drink coffee, espresso may be the optimal choice as it will take up the least volume in your stomach. Therefore you can focus on hydration.
More: Caffeine and Cycling