Posted in Triathlon

Caffeine has a long history as a performance booster in sport and it has been researched extensively for its physiological and mental effects during exercise. But why? And how can you benefit from using it?  HIGH5 give us the lowdown.

Caffeine as a stimulant

Caffeine acts as a stimulant for your central nervous system (your brain and spinal cord), which reduces how hard you think you are working. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine, the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world, cite caffeine as one of just five external influences that will effectively enhance your performance in high intensity exercise.

When your brain is stimulated, you experience improved alertness, increased concentration, and enhanced reaction time. You know that buzzy energy that you get after a strong coffee? That’s the caffeine! For those taking part in endurance events, this surge of energy can get you off to a strong start which helps you work for longer and decreases your perceived exertion rate. It’s easy to see why it’s such a popular supplement for sport.

Caffeine for fat loss

There is speculation that caffeine also increases fat oxidation, which can help you to reduce body fat. The jury's still out on this - there's not yet definitive scientific proof.

The caffeine and dehydration debate

There have been countless investigations into whether or not caffeine acts a diuretic during exercise or recovery. The general conclusion is that caffeine does have a mild diuretic effect but exercise actually makes it ineffective. This is excellent news for athletes!

How much to take

Before you become best friends with your local barista, it’s worth noting that there's still debate over how much caffeine is appropriate for sports use. As with most sports research, it’s a divided camp. Some say a lot, some say hardly any. The middle ground is for 3-6 mg/kg bodyweight (210-420mg caffeine for a 70kg athlete - that’s less than a large filter coffee). Individuals who are caffeine-sensitive should avoid it, or practice with lower doses.

Listen to your body a tweak your intake accordingly. How do you feel? Good? Too wired? Not wired enough? 

How much caffeine should you take?

Timing your intake

Most research recommends caffeine consumption 60 minutes prior to exercise. However, similar results have been shown closer to and during exercise. Again, try 60 minutes and 20 minutes. Which gave you the best results? Nothing is ever “one size fits all”.

As with any stimulant, it’s only a matter of time before we get used to feeling hyped from caffeine. This means that eventually we need more and more caffeine to feel the same effect. We suggest that you taper your intake before events so that come race day, you get to enjoy the full effect.

Recommended products

Sure you can just chug a cup of Joe, but a lot of athletes opt for supplements because caffeine is more powerful when consumed in a more concentrated form, without lots of water. Think capsules, tablets or powders.

Supplements also allow you to monitor your intake with more accuracy. With coffee or tea, caffeine strength often varies depending on the type of coffee (e.g. latte, espresso), the coffee beans used and whether your 'regular' is someone else’s 'large.'

Sports drinks and gels contain an exact amount of caffeine so that you can take the correct amount. 

How much caffeine can I get from HIGH5 Nutrition?

  • HIGH5 Energy Drink Caffeine Hit contains 300mg per litre, designed for caffeine-loading pre-race or during a longer event. It’s also great as a “get me home” drink when it gets really tough towards the end of a long ride.
  • HIGH5 Zero Caffeine Hit contains 75mg per tablet. It’s great for extra focus during tough training sessions. With 5 electrolytes, including magnesium, it also helps you stay hydrated.

Health note

Please don’t just launch into a vat of Costa Rica’s finest. Stimulants actively affect your brain so they need to be treated with caution. Furthermore, products with a high caffeine content (over 150mg) are not suitable for children and pregnant or breast feeding women.