Caffeine Shots: Good Or Bad Idea?
No matter how the morning begins, most of us reach for a good cup of joe before beginning the day.
It is well known that too much coffee or caffeinated drinks just before bedtime can affect your sleep schedule by making you jittery. Not only can caffeine increase cortisol levels even when at rest, but drinking coffee can also make you feel more stressed than you should. How much water should an athlete drink in a day can also be offset by drinking coffee. As if reducing pain and raising your body for longer isn’t helpful enough, consuming caffeine before exercise can also help burn more fat. You can build more muscle than if you were to drink sports and coffee alone, while training can raise your blood pressure.
Does Coffee Improve Exercise Performance?
Several studies have explored whether caffeinated coffee improves exercise performance, and often give mixed results. For example, an early study showed that 3 grams of instant coffee dissolved in water improved the 1500m running performance of a few individuals. A more recent study found similar results where coffee provided 3 mg/kg of caffeine and enhanced one-mile running performance. Similarly, a study on cyclists found that 5 mg/kg of caffeine in coffee improved performance to a greater extent than decaffeinated coffee.
However, not all studies support caffeinated coffee’s performance-enhancing effect. For example, a 1998 study found no difference between coffee (providing 4.45 mg/kg of caffeine) and decaffeinated coffee on running performance, as did a more recent study looking at the effects of coffee containing 5.5 mg/kg of caffeine on 800 m running performance. In terms of resistance training, a 2016 study reported no difference in terms of muscular endurance between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, while Clarke and colleagues found coffee did not affect repeated sprint cycling performance.
Practical Applications Of The Data
With limited evidence available, we can tentatively state there is no difference in performance enhancement between caffeine and coffee, providing there’s an equal dose of caffeine. Caffeine is most reliably ergogenic at doses of 3-6 mg/kg (although it can enhance performance at lower doses). For caffeine to enhance performance, we need to consume 3-6 mg/kg.
Here is where we reach our first practical hurdle—this potentially means you have to drink a lot of coffee in order to feel tangible effects. In one of the studies detailed above, the subjects drank 600ml of coffee. In another study, participants had 5 cups of coffee of 200ml each, for a total of one liter. If an average cup of coffee contains 100 mg of caffeine, two cups will provide around 210 mg of caffeine for a 70-kg athlete—enough to provide an ergogenic effect. However, drinking this much coffee can also be detrimental as caffeine isn’t the only thing that coffee contains. Make sure you consult a health professional before drinking large amounts of coffee.