The Benifits of Coffee (Caffeine)
At the right levels, caffeine can improve your training and races. There are three proven advantages that caffeine has:
-Improving focus & mental performance
-Increasing physical endurance
-Reducing rate of perceived exertion
But there have also been studies done that show caffeine can help you recover. I will get into that later on.
To have these effects on your body the caffeine levels must be correct and taken at the right time. The right amount of caffeine is different for every person. However, studies have shown that 2-3mg per kilogram of body weight is optimal for sports performance. Having too little caffeine won’t impact your training at all, but most of us are familiar with the side effects of having too much. For this reason it is important to track the amount of caffeine you are taking in.
I personally like to use caffeine pills before a race because I know the exact level. I will be trying a new kind of coffee called TrueStart coffee that gives you the caffeine levels in your coffee. It is very hard to know how much caffeine you are getting in a cup of coffee- there are just so many variables like the type of bean, the roast, altitude, the weather, and more. It gets even more complicated when it comes to roast and ground coffee.
Caffeine takes about 45 minutes to fully be absorbed and has a half-life of 5.7 hours. I personally like to take my caffeine about 1 hour before a workout or race to make sure it has settled in.
There are two tips of Caffeine.
Type 1 – Synthetic Caffeine
-Found in traditional energy drinks, gels and pills
-The great thing about synthetic caffeine is it is regulated, so you know how much you are taking in
-Synthetic caffeine gets absorbed through the digestive system much faster than naturally occurring plant caffeine .
-Synthetic caffeine options also tend to come hand-in-hand with extra sugar
Type 2 – Natural Caffeine
-Caffeine is naturally found in coffee, tea, cocoa and approximately 60 other plant species
-The great thing about natural caffeine is it gets slowly released into the bloodstream, providing more sustained energy
-Natural caffeine is it is unregulated, so you don’t know how much you’re getting. A single cup of coffee can vary from less than 20mg to over 300mg caffeine.
Caffeine has also been shown to help with recovery. One study conducted on seven high-level endurance cyclists who partook in four sessions revealed the following:
‘Glycogen, the muscle’s primary fuel source during exercise, is replenished more rapidly when athletes ingest both carbohydrate and caffeine following exhaustive exercise, new research from the online edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology shows. Athletes who ingested caffeine with carbohydrate had 66% more glycogen in their muscles four hours after finishing intense, glycogen-depleting exercise, compared to when they consumed carbohydrate alone, according to the study, published by The American Physiological Society.’ (Hawley, 2008)
The study used very high levels of caffeine to get these effects, 8 mg per kilogram of body weight. That is about 5-6 cups of strong coffee. Further research is needed to see if lower levels of caffeine have similar effects. But any reason to have another cup of coffee right?
Sources: Hawley, John A. (2008). The American Physiological Society. http://www.the-aps.org/mm/hp/audiences/public-press/archive/08/24.html
(2016). TureStart. http://www.truestartcoffee.com/learn/train-harder-for-longer