The Power of Caffeine in Sports Performance
Can caffeine really improve your sporting performance? Caffeine is a stimulant that can have a positive effect on endurance performance by increasing alertness, reducing fatigue, and improving focus. It can also stimulate the release of adrenaline, which can increase the body's ability to burn fat as a fuel source. There is a considerable body of research indicating that caffeine can improve endurance performance by 2-3%. However, the effects of caffeine on endurance performance can vary depending on the individual and their tolerance to caffeine.
How does caffeine effect the body?
Caffeine affects the central nervous system (CNS) and the working muscles. It works by blocking the action of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of fatigue and drowsiness. By blocking adenosine, caffeine increases alertness, reduces fatigue, and improves focus, which can have a positive effect on endurance performance. This may be linked to caffeine’s role in increasing nerve transmission or speeding up the body’s control center (central nervous system). The effect it has on muscle tissue is still to be determined. Some studies claim caffeine increases the availability of calcium in the working muscle, which would delay fatigue and increase performance.
Is caffeine safe in sports?
Caffeine is one of the most widely studied ergogenic aids in the world, therefore a lot of research has been conducted on its effects on physical performance, mental alertness, and cognitive function. It can be seen used by recreational athletes at local 5km running races to athletes competing in the Olympics. Even with its popularity, some think caffeine is extremely under-researched when it comes to the potential performance enhancing benefits. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has had a tough time deciding whether or not to legalize the stimulant.
Through the years WADA has prohibited caffeine, removed it from the prohibited list, placed it on the restricted list and most recently (2004) has been removed from the restricted list and placed on the monitoring list. According to WADA, the monitoring list is designed to monitor certain substances and evaluate whether or not they have a performance enhancing effect. The problem with caffeine is that it can be found in such a plethora of items (food, beverage, medications, etc.). This could be a potential nightmare for WADA if they ever decide to ban it.
Does Stratos use caffeine in products and what is the recommended dosage?
Athletes have used caffeine as an ergogenic aid for years. It comes in many forms, which is why we thought it was a must ingredient to add within our Stratos Pre-Workout product. This will help boost your workouts like never before and you will see faster results. Now we know caffeine can boost energy, delay fatigue, increase performance and decrease drowsiness. How is this done? By altering or masking the perception of effort, giving off a ‘less effort effect’. This has to do with its impact on the central nervous system (increase nerve transmission). Some research also suggests that caffeine can increase fat oxidation, which will in theory reduce carbohydrate use and conserve liver and muscle glycogen.
The research suggests to improve exercise performance when consumed in doses of 3–6 mg/kg body mass. Minimal effective doses of caffeine currently remain unclear but they may be as low as 2 mg/kg body mass. Very high doses of caffeine (e.g., 9 mg/kg) are associated with a high incidence of side-effects and do not seem to be required to elicit an ergogenic effect. With all this information we have worked with scientists and athletes to create the perfect amount per serving.
Other products on the market promote caffeine with extremely high dosages which will only harm your performance. We have come to the conclusion that adding 200 mg of high-quality caffeine into Stratos Pre-workout is the perfect amount which complements our other key ingredients. We recommend taking Stratos Pre-workout 15-20 mins before your hard workout and re-evaluate after 90 mins of effort if more is needed to complete your session or race.
What are the benefits for endurance athletes?
For endurance athletes, conserving energy and utilizing fat as a fuel can have a great advantage. Caffeine has also shown to increase power output for anaerobic activities. This can be attributed to the ‘less effort effect,’ it has on the central nervous system. Another benefit caffeine provides for specific athletes is that is it has the potential to affect them before, during and late in competition. It can increase alertness prior to a race; increase fat oxidation, which conserves liver and muscle glycogen during competition and mask fatigue or the perception of effort late in the race. Here are several benefits for sports performance, including:
Increased Alertness: Caffeine can help to increase mental alertness, focus and concentration, which can be beneficial for sports that require a high level of cognitive function, such as golf or shooting, cycling, running, swimming or strength training.
- Improved Endurance: Caffeine has been shown to improve endurance performance by increasing the ability to burn fat as a fuel source, which can help to spare glycogen (carbohydrates stored in the muscles) and delay fatigue.
- Increased Power Output: Caffeine has been shown to increase muscle power output, which can be beneficial for sports that require explosive movements, such as weightlifting, CrossFit, running and cycling sprinting, swimming and HIIT in the gym.
- Reduced Perception of Effort: Caffeine can help to reduce the perception of effort, which can make exercise feel less difficult, this can help to improve mental and physical in the muscles and liver, and delay the onset of fatigue.
Caffeine does have side effects and will depend on the user and dosage. These may include insomnia, diarrhea/GI issues, anxiety, shaking and irritability. The response is specific to each individual. Although these side effects are not incredibly severe, they can trump the benefits of caffeine as an ergogenic aid if present.
The Summary on Caffeine
Based on the available research, caffeine is an effective ergogenic aid and used by many athletes. However, the current research does suggest that caffeine can impact an athlete’s performance. It is worth mentioning that the effects of caffeine will be dependent on the individual’s frequency of caffeine use. Individuals who consume large doses of caffeine on a daily basis may want to reduce use four to six days prior to an event in order to receive full benefits. It is important to test your caffeine tolerance and timing during your training period, as some people may have different responses to caffeine.