Many of us indulge in a daily cup of coffee and are well aware of the mental benefits such as increased alertness. However, many people are unaware that caffeine can significantly enhance our physical performance as well.
Research has shown that caffeine can extend endurance and reduce fatigue, by blocking the passage of ‘fatigue signals’ to the brain. More recent research has further revealed that caffeine can also benefit endurance athletes whose events involve shorter, more intense efforts such as middle and sprint distance running/rowing/ cycling/swimming/gym activities.
Caffeine mobilises fat stores and encourages working muscles to use fat as a fuel. This delays the depletion of muscle glycogen and allows for a prolongation of exercise. One recent study found that caffeine improved performance in cyclists and runners by an average of 3%. The good news is that even if you are a regular consumer or coffee or other caffeinated beverages you still receive the same benefits as someone who rarely ingests it. The biggest difference in response is not effected by habitual use, rather it comes down to individuality.
The recommended dose is around 3mgs/kg, however, consuming larger doses will not be of benefit and may instead actually hinder performance. If the event is short and intense, such as HIIT type training at the gym, then you should consume it as close to the session as possible (within 30 minutes). Clearly one should not become dependent on any type of supplementation, however the benefits of caffeine may come in handy next time you have a tough event or session on the horizon, plus it’s also delicious!