Consuming caffeine while training? It works!
Because it takes a good hour after intake before caffeine enters the bloodstream, athletes who've done their homework usually take their caffeine an hour before they train or compete. But athletes who do prolonged training sessions, and need a bit of a boost towards the end, could consume their caffeine halfway through a session, wrote Canadian sports scientists in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. Even in modest quantities caffeine is surprisingly effective when taken like this.
The researchers got 15 elite cyclists to do the same bike ride on different occasions. The participants first cycled for 120 minutes at a previously determined intensity, and finished with a time trial [TT] in which they had to deliver a predetermined power output in as short a time as possible.
During the ride, the cyclists were given a sports drink containing carbohydrates with electrolytes at three moments – shown below with asterisks. At one asterisk, after they'd cycled for 80 minutes, the participants were given an ordinary sports drink [PL] on one occasion, but on another occasion it contained about 100 mg caffeine. The exact dose was 1.5 mg caffeine per kg bodyweight [CAF1].
On yet another occasion the drink the cyclists were given twice as much caffeine [CAF2].
Consuming caffeine while training resulted in the cyclists delivering better times. The 100 mg dose cut 1.05 minutes off the ride; the 200 mg dose took off 2.05 minutes.
The performance enhancing effects of the heavier dose supplementation were visible particularly in the last part of the time trial. The figure above shows the power – in other words speed – that the participants developed.
"In summary, both a low (100 mg) and moderate (200 mg) dose of caffeine ingested late in exercise and 40 min prior to a time trial improved performance," the researchers summarised. "In addition, the moderate dose improved performance to a greater extent than the low dose."
"The results suggest that a moderate dose of caffeine given during a prolonged steady-state exercise and 40 min prior to a time trial, is more ergogenic than a low dose in trained cyclist."
Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016 Aug;41(8):850-5.
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