What About Caffeine?
While caffeine is not an energy source, research shows that it does work as an ergogenic aid. Used in moderate amounts before an event, it can improve performance, especially for endurance athletes. Research shows a caffeine dose of 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight can improve your speed and power.
Another benefit: the perception of effort is decreased, giving you the ability to push yourself. Most of the caffeine research has been done on long-distance runners, bicyclists and cross-country skiers.
Experts agree that a good range for most athletes is 2 to 3 milligrams of caffeine for every kilogram of body weight. For a 150-pound runner, that works out to 140 to 200 milligrams of caffeine.
If you're used to drinking coffee or tea, it's not hard to get that amount by drinking your usual beverage. But if you have never been a coffee drinker, race day isn't the time to start. Like sports drinks and gels, caffeine isn't something you should try for the first time before an event. Caffeine is a stimulant and can make you feel jittery, dizzy or anxious if you aren't used to it.
What About Caffeine's Diuretic Effect?
From the need for a bathroom break to the risk for dehydration, this could pose for a problem during your race. In a study of cyclists, three-hour urine production was compared to caffeine intake. The effect of a 250-milligram dose was no different from plain water. But a much higher caffeine dose–550 milligrams–did result in significantly more urine production. Again, stick to the recommended dose of 2 to 3 milligrams per kilogram of body weight to minimize these problems.
The chart below gives you an idea of the caffeine content in caffeinated beverages. Keep in mind, caffeine amounts in these beverages will vary according to the brew method, tea or bean variety:
Caffeine per serving
75 mg per shot
100 to 180 mg per 8 oz cup
About 50 mg per cup
About 30 mg per cup
Caffeine is also added to some sports drinks, bars and pills. Again, stick to the recommended limits. If caffeine is added to a product, the amount should be listed on the label.
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