Don't Give Up on the Cuppa!
Published at 27 Mar 2018 | Posted by Allsports Nutrition
How your daily cuppa can actually help improve your endurance

Caffeine is a popular supplement for endurance athletes for a very good reason: numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that it can significantly enhance performance by extending endurance and reducing fatigue - probably by blocking the passage of 'fatigue signals' to the brain.

However, one of the curious aspects of caffeine supplementation is that while it works extremely well for most athletes, there is a degree of individuality in response - some athletes mysteriously fail to derive any significant benefits.

One theory for this is that in athletes who regularly consume dietary caffeine there may be a degree of habituation (i.e. caffeine tolerance), so athletes choose to refrain from teas, coffees and cola drinks in the run up to a race. A new study by Brazilian scientists, however, suggests that your day-to-day caffeine intake is actually irrelevant in determining your response to acute caffeine ingested before and/or during a race.

The Research

A study was conducted (double-blind, crossover, counterbalanced) whereby 40 endurance cyclists were allocated into three groups depending on their daily caffeine intake:

1. Low intake (around one strong cup of tea);

2. Moderate intake (around two cups of coffee);

3. High intake (around five cups of coffee).

All cyclists then completed three separate time trials in a random order on three different occasions either consuming a caffeine supplement, a placebo supplement or neither (the control condition). The times of each trial were then recorded.

The Results

When the data was analysed the first finding was the the cyclists all performed significantly better when they took caffeine (an average time of 29mins 55secs, compared to 30mins 49secs (placebo) and 31mins 08secs (control)). More importantly though, there was no difference in time-trial times across the three groups, and the degree of improvement was unrelated to the amount of caffeine that he/she usually consumed in their daily diet.The amount of caffeine consumed in the diet also bore no relationship to the levels of perceived exertion experienced when the caffeine was/wasn't consumed before the time trial.

The Verdict

The researchers concluded that the performance effects of acute caffeine supplementation during a 30 minute cycling time trial were not influenced by the level of day-to-day caffeine consumption, which is great news for those who love their daily cuppa, be it tea or coffee. It means there is no need to abstain from caffeine for days or weeks running up to an event where you will be using caffeine supplements - your body does not build uo a tolerance to caffeine supplements through drinking teas and coffees as part of your daily diet. There is no need to forgo your daily cuppa in order to benefit from caffeine as a performance enhancer. Hurray!

References: J Sports Sci. 2011 Mar;29(5):509-15; Peak Perf. Iss 366-26


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