The turbo in the tank: Why caffeine increases athletic performance

The influence of caffeine on athletic performance

Caffeine, scientifically known as 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine, is one of the most popular substances used by elite athletes around the world. But why is that? Since caffeine was removed from the banned substances list in 2004, its use before and during competition has increased dramatically. This is largely due to its proven performance-enhancing properties in a variety of sports.

Caffeine is not only socially acceptable, but it is also known for its ability to improve physical performance. Studies show that moderate doses of 3 to 6 mg per kg of body weight are ideal to reap the benefits of caffeine without risking significant side effects. This amount can increase your endurance and help you feel more focused and energized during training or competition.

How is caffeine consumed in sports?

The method of ingestion can vary - from capsules and tablets to coffee and energy drinks. Caffeine chewing gum is particularly popular, as it allows for faster absorption of the caffeine. Peak blood concentration is usually reached between 0.5 and 2 hours after ingestion, meaning you need to plan your timing carefully to get the maximum benefit from your caffeine dose.

Caffeine in energy drinks

Energy drinks are particularly popular among young and elite athletes and contain carbohydrates, taurine and B vitamins in addition to caffeine. They are ideal before training as they not only provide energy but can also improve mental clarity. However, caution is advised: high doses can lead to health problems, so it is important to moderate intake.

Current research and recommendations

In a recent systematic review by Jimenez et al. (2021), published in the journal Nutrients, the effects of caffeinated beverages on athletic performance were examined. The results confirm the positive effects of caffeine in endurance and strength sports, as well as in team and technique-based sports. The studies emphasize that a sufficient amount of caffeine - at least 3 mg per kg of body weight - is necessary to achieve the desired effects.

Endurance sports

In the studies examined, particularly in cycling and running, it has been shown that caffeine can significantly increase the time to exhaustion. Drinks containing caffeine were consumed approximately 30 to 60 minutes before the start of physical exercise, resulting in improved performance. These improvements were seen with the use of both energy drinks and dedicated sports drinks.

Strength and team sports

Caffeinated beverages also showed positive effects in strength sports and team sports such as football and rugby. Athletes who consumed caffeine before a game showed increased jumping height, faster sprint times and better endurance at high intensities. Interestingly, the effect of caffeine was particularly pronounced in athletes who normally consume less caffeine.

Individual and technology-based sports

In sports that require both aerobic and anaerobic performance, such as tennis and badminton, caffeine improved players' explosiveness and speed. Particularly notable was the improved focus and accuracy in technique-based sports, suggesting that caffeine enhances not only physical but also mental performance.

Conclusion

Caffeine can be a powerful ally in your athletic performance if used correctly. It's worth testing your personal reaction to caffeine and adjusting your intake accordingly to achieve the best results. Whether you choose capsules, coffee or energy drinks, it's important that you listen to your body and find the optimal dosage for you. Whether you're a professional athlete or a fitness enthusiast, caffeine could be just the boost you need for your next peak performance.

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