Tuesday, July 26, 2011

a caffeine update

this is a short note to update my previous comments regarding coffee and caffeine. my previous post pretty much stands, but there was an article in this past month's issue of Lava magazine that confirms what i've suspected and which i think may help assuage anyone with lingering questions.

you can reference my previous comments:
the recent article in Lava (which, by the way, i recommend for those of you who've become more involved with ultra-distance endurance sports) is at:
if the link doesn't work, the full text of the article is below. like i said, the article itself doesn't say anything completely new, but it does make it more specific to endurance sports in terms of categorizing how caffeine helps pre-workout, during workout, and post-workout.

i will, however, caution against taking this article or any other similar article as free license to consume caffeine. i want to reiterate my caveats from before to emphasize some issues that qualify the consumption of caffeine by athletes:
  • caffeine is considered an ergogenic aid (i.e., performance-enhancer) in sports. while viewed as largely innocuous relative to other ergogenic substances, some sports organizations still hold limits to the amount of allowed caffeine. for example, the NCAA (for those of you outside the US, it is the controlling sports organization for major US colleges), bans caffeine concentrations greater than 15 micrograms per milliliter in athlete urine samples--meaning an athlete faces sanctions if they test positive for caffeine in concentrations above that amount (reference: drug free sport). it's important to check for your sport.
  • caffeine is a diuretic. so it will dehydrate you. you will need to monitor and adjust hydration accordingly.
  • being a stimulant, caffeine in sufficiently high concentrations can affect your neuro-muscular system, and hence disrupt your sense of physical coordination. you will need to assess how important this is to you and at what levels you can accept the stimulant effect.
having said all this, i'm more than happy to share a morning cup of coffee with you. top o' the morning to ya!

Refill, Please: Caffeine's Performance Benefits
Krista Austin
July 22, 2011

Here's some good news for all of you who frequent coffee shops after your weekend workouts. Caffeine is a stimulant consumed by approximately 90 percent of the population on a regular basis and is considered to be an ergogenic (performance enhancing) substance. It is by far the most popular drug available and can be found in everything from coffee and tea to chocolate, sodas and energy drinks. Half of all American adults are reported to consume at least 300mg of caffeine a day, and most use it to keep the neurons of the brain firing to get through the work day!

While caffeine can assist you at work, its benefits for your next race are even more promising. Caffeine has been shown to improve muscular performance, decrease the perception of exercise effort, sustain alertness and cognitive function, and increase fat breakdown and carbohydrate oxidation. It has even been shown to enhance recovery by assisting the body as it restores muscle glycogen. Here are four ways your morning best friend can benefit you as an endurance athlete, and especially in races.

1. Increased power output: Caffeine enhances nerve cell activity (how frequently our nerves are firing) which increases muscle power output. By increasing how frequently our nerves are firing, caffeine increases the number of muscle fibers that can be recruited to perform and sustain higher levels of power output. Additionally, regardless of whether you lift weights for muscular endurance or strength and power, caffeine has been shown to increase the muscular work you can generate for the type of lifting you are doing. As a result, greater gains from the weight room can be achieved and hopefully translated onto the racing course.

2. Dopamine production: Our ability to maintain these high levels of muscular performance is even further enhanced by caffeine’s ability to increase dopamine (a substance in the brain) which activates the pleasure centers of the brain. Dopamine helps you sustain alertness and cognitive function; an extremely important benefit for any triathlete-especially in the middle of a long course event when you have to stay motivated.

2. Increased metabolism: Fat mobilization is increased and our body’s ability to use carbohydrates becomes more efficient when ingest these macronutrients with caffeine. This helps keep the energy coming during the many hours of training and especially on race day.

4. Recovery: Caffeine’s role in performance comes full circle by helping to restore muscle glycogen following glycogen-depleting training sessions. Also, ingesting caffeine in the 24-48 hours after a muscle damaging exercise session or race can minimize the pain and muscle tenderness that accompanies this sort of new and novel work for the body. By reducing the amount of pain and soreness, athletes typically can return to training at their desired intensity much sooner following a tough race.
How to use caffeine

Everyone responds to caffeine in a different manner so learning your body’s response and optimizing your doses is critical to taking advantage of all its benefits. Often athletes find the benefits of caffeine to be greatest in competition when consuming only the minimal amount necessary for training, and saving the maximal dose for the big day. Timing the right dose of caffeine is the key to optimizing its use.

For training sessions or races that are less than one hour (i.e. that 10k you decided to jump in to keep training fun and stimulate your competitive side) consuming up to 3 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight will work for most people (see table below). Studies have shown that upwards of 6-10 milligrams per kilogram of body weight can be consumed if caffeine is well tolerated. Regardless of the dose that suits you the best, caffeine is most beneficial when ingested in the hour to 30 minutes before competition. In events longer than one hour, such as long-distance triathlons and marathons, consume your pre-race dose in the hour to 30 minutes before and then add approximately 15-30mg of caffeine every 45 minutes thereafter to sustain the desired effects. The form here doesn’t matter much, and most prefer a variety of caffeine sources throughout a long race including caffeinated gels, sports drinks, flat cola or a pill taken with a non-caffeinated carbohydrate/electrolyte beverage.

For the endurance athlete, caffeine is a promising ergogenic aid that can enhance performance and accelerate recovery. Knowing your body well and learning its response to caffeine will help you identify the optimal dose necessary to benefit your training and competition. So grab your cup of Joe … it’s time to train!

Caffeine content of common products, in milligrams*

Dunkin' Donuts, brewed, 16 oz (480 mL): 143-206

Generic brewed, 8 oz (240 mL): 95-200

Generic brewed, decaffeinated, 8 oz (240 mL): 2-12

Starbucks Espresso, 1 oz (30 mL): 58-75

Starbucks Vanilla Latte, 16 oz (480 mL): 150

Black tea, 8 oz (240 mL): 40-120

Starbucks Tazo Chai Tea Latte, 16 oz (480 mL): 100

Coca-Cola Classic: 35

Diet Coke: 47

Red Bull, 8.3 oz (250 mL): 76

Ben and Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, 8 oz (208 g): 84

Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate bar, 1.45 oz (41 g): 31

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