For the longest time, athletes were told to avoid taking caffeine. There was concern that the cons outweighed the pros and people were scared it would not be effective in improving athletic performance.
Like any “questionable supplement” research is showing that if taken properly, caffeine might be the secret ingredient to give an athlete that sudden burst of energy needed to help performance positively. The key of course is knowing what those restrictions and/or guidelines for caffeine are.
If you are going to take caffeine, here are some of the key points you should know:
- It used to be assumed that caffeine would cause dehydration. Obviously, not what an athlete wants to have happen. New research is suggesting that it could be a diuretic for people at rest, not people who are engaging in physical activity such as athletes playing a game.
- If you participate in an endurance sport, there is potential that caffeine could enhance your performance. Those endurance sports include – road cycling, distance running, rowing, swimming, and cross-country skiing.
- It takes about 15-45 minutes for caffeine levels to rise in the blood stream hitting peak concentrations within 60 minutes.
- Researchers suggest that the dosing range for performance enhancement is 1 to 6 mg/kg of bodyweight consumed 60 minutes before activity. With such a wide range to pick from, athletes are encouraged to start with low dosages and gradually increase the range to determine the optimal level.
- Athletes can look for commercial products that list the caffeine content and easy to digest.
- Try to avoid some of the energy drinks and pills out there that contain caffeine. They aren’t monitored for safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration therefore the contents could vary widely. The ONLY one that I recommend to my clients is Advocare products such as their Spark product or Muscle Fuel. Advocare has partnered with INFORMED-CHOICE to certify that their products are banned substance free. You can get some of those Advocare products by clicking here.
- Just like any supplement, the body could develop a tolerance to caffeine. Instead of increasing the dosage and potentially causing side effects, it is recommended to stop it for a while and restart at a later date.
- If lack of sleep starts becoming an issue for the athlete, start consuming the last dose earlier and earlier until your sleep patterns returns to normalcy.
- Be aware of potential side effects like nervousness, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, increased heart rate, increased respiration, headache, and ringing in the ears. Most of these things probably won’t happen, but in this day and age you have to mention every little thing.
Bottom line: as long as you are taking caffeine safely, it can definitely be used as an ergogenic aid for athletes. Follow the guidelines, test it gradually early in the season, and then utilize it to your advantage.