Coffee (and caffeine) can be traced as far back as the tenth century. Today, 80% of people in the United States consume some sort of caffeine on a daily basis. Scientists have studied the impact caffeine has on the average person for years, and with the development of so many caffeinated energy supplements in recent years, those studies have only increased when it comes to sports performance.
Caffeine in Sports
Originally, there were many that thought of caffeine as a performance-enhancing drug, just like steroids and technically, they were right! Caffeine is considered a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system. While many drugs are detrimental to focus, motor skills and ultimately health, caffeine can give people (and athletes) a temporary boost in alertness, energy and even mood.
In the early 1900s, caffeine was mixed with heroin and cocaine by athletes to increase their performance levels, and eventually all three were banned until 2004, when the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed caffeine from its list of prohibited substances.
And while there have been discussions about caffeine being banned again, the NCAA remains the only major governing body in sports to regulate caffeine; collegiate athletes risk failing a drug test for levels higher than 15 milligrams/ml urine.
Impact on Performance
Caffeine was originally thought to negatively impact the performance of athletes because it had a dehydrating effect on the body. However, this myth has been debunked, as a coffee drinker can become tolerant to the diuretic effects of caffeine after 4-5 days of daily drinks. Instead, a vast amount of new research shows that caffeine helps athletes to train harder and longer.
Once caffeine is ingested, it improves sports performance by twelve percent and decreases effort by six percent. This improvement is seen more in long, endurance-type training rather than short sprints. Caffeine intake also helps with concentration and a recent study shows that it improves batting performance in baseball players.
Managing Caffeine Intake
Although caffeine improves sports performance, it must be regulated. Because the effects of caffeine affect people differently based on metabolism and frequency of use, it is important to make sure athletes understand their limits.
Prevent Side Effects of Caffeine Intake:
Coffee increases acid reflux and digestive problems because it is naturally acidic. To reduce this side effect of coffee drinking, drink dark roast and low acidic varieties, or opt for the cold brew. Heavy caffeine drinkers also have problems with iron absorption and need to take supplements. Too much caffeine can also affect mood, so it is important to regulate intake.
Caffeine intake should occur three to four hours before a competition to ensure the maximum effect. There are also better results from caffeine if you stay away from it for three to four days prior to any competition.
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