Sunday, 9 April 2017

Legal Dope: Caffeine

Caffeine is one of the few legal ergogenic aids that has substantial evidence behind it. So, how do you use it to get the most out of your legs when you’re on the road/trails? What is caffeine? Caffeine is a stimulant naturally found in the leaves, nuts and seeds of plants. You’ll find it not only in tea and coffee, but also in cola and energy drinks and also increasingly in sports supplements such as gels, sports drinks and now even chewing gum.

Matthew Ganio, PhD, an exercise physiologist at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine in Dallas. "Caffeine crowds out a calming brain chemical called adenosine," he says. You become more alert, you react faster, and you don't feel like you're working as hard, all of which add up to training or competing at a higher intensity for a longer period of time and being more agile in a pack

The beauty of using caffeine for performance comes from research that shows it can be helpful for a wide range of sports from high intensity, short duration sprints all the way to endurance events. So, no matter if you’re riding or running, caffeine may be helpful. 

Don’t get too excited just yet… Whilst caffeine does offer benefits to performance, in many people the side effects can mean that caffeine isn’t the right choice. If you’ve ever accidentally had one coffee too many, you’ll probably know what these side effects are already. Common issues from too much caffeine include increased heart rate, shakiness, anxiety, sleep disturbances and gut upsets.

Ganio suggests testing what caffeine does to you during hard sessions. "If you feel jittery, anxious, or notice your heart racing, dial back the amount you take in before a ride," says Ganio. "If you can't find a caffeine level that leaves you feeling comfortable, skip it. Side effects can impair performance."

How should I use it?

It’s not just as simple as drinking an espresso shot before jumping on your bike or running. Typically, a dose of around 1-3mg caffeine per kilogram of body weight is now recommended. At this dosage studies have shown an improvement in performance of about 3% (although individual responses do vary). So, a 70kg cyclist is looking at ingesting 70-210mg of caffeine. It’s important to work out what dosage works for you and it can be a bit of a balancing act finding the dose that will give you the performance benefits, without the side effects. 

You also need to consider when to take caffeine - it may be before or during your session (or a combination of both) that helps you to perform at your best. Caffeine is absorbed quickly and reaches peak concentration within about an hour of ingestion. Traditionally, recommendations have therefore been to take 1-3mg caffeine per kilogram of body weight about 60 minutes before your race starts. If using caffeine during your race, 1-2mg per kilogram of body weight has been shown to improve performance. 

How and when you do this will depend on your tolerance and your need for it. There is no right way to take caffeine - many protocols have been tested and all seem to show similar benefits. For example studies have looked at taking multiple smaller doses versus one or two larger doses (all giving the same amount of caffeine) and all showed approximately 3% increase in performance.

Tips for using caffeine

1.Practice your plan in training first. As always, it’s best to try a range of protocols in training and see what works best for you

2.For shorter events: dose up on caffeine before your event to get the maximum effect. You may want to use caffeinated gum to do this rather than knocking back multiple espressos. 

3.For longer events like an enduro, aim to maximise your caffeine later in the race when you’re starting to get tired, helping you post good times on the final stages. Taking a caffeinated gel, gum or electrolyte tab throughout the race will be a good way to do this. 

4.If you get nervous before a race, caffeine will make this worse! If it’s a longer event, take your caffeine throughout the race when you’re a little more relaxed instead of taking a large dose just before you start

Australian Mountain Bike magazine issue 159

Ride On!

Psssttt...if you like motorcycle too, visit my other blog at 

No comments: