How does caffeine affect sports performance?
Caffeine is a natural substance, present in many foods included in an athlete’s diet. Its stimulant action is proven and there are many studies confirming that caffeine affects sports performance.
It is an alkaloid that is an integral part of the composition of many plants (leaves), seeds or fruits. We drink caffeine when we drink a cup of coffee, but we can also find it in isotonic drinks, in cola soft drinks, in tea (theína), in cocoa or in certain nutritional supplements for athletes.
In principle, any stimulating substance, taken in moderation, can be a good help when doing physical or mental activity. Food experts consider caffeine to be an ergogenic aid, i.e. a substance that can contribute to improving sports performance by causing various advantageous metabolic reactions when it comes to achieving its intended purpose.
Benefits of caffeine for sports performance
When we drink an edible that contains caffeine, the body takes between thirty and sixty minutes to metabolize it. A coffee or a cola soda, a little while before training, provides a small dose of this stimulant that could become a good ally at the time of exercise. The effects of caffeine on sports performance are based on the properties of this substance and the different responses it causes in the body, among those that stand out:
- It acts on the central nervous system, increasing brain activity and delaying the feeling of tiredness or fatigue.
- Thermogenic effect and increased lipolysis. The presence of caffeine implies a greater”burning” of fat. Its intake accelerates the basal metabolism and contributes to the mobilization of fats. When it comes to intense physical activity, these fats are”available” as an energy source. The consequence is that the muscles involved in exercise”pull” the fats by reducing their glycogen needs.
- Improved muscle contraction. Caffeine improves sports performance not only in aerobic activities. It is also useful in any strength training because its not to forget that the muscles move following orders from the brain and caffeine directly affects the nervous system.
- Vasodilator properties. This alkaloid increases blood flow by delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the different muscle groups that are at work.
- Greater tolerance to the effort involved in sport. Caffeine can help us face an intense physical test, as an example of a long race. Its stimulating effects will work in two ways:
- Positive attitude, more vitality, upliftment.
- Greater resistance in the face of an activity that demands care for an extended period of time. Less fatigue.
What is the recommended dose of caffeine for progress in sport?
Caffeine can increase sports performance more like any other stimulating substance, it should be taken in moderation in daily nutrition so as not to cause undesirable effects. Between 1 and 2 mg per kilogram of weight is the recommended amount of caffeine so that this substance is advantageous and does not harm the body. This is an approximate amount, as each person (and each athlete) has their own rate of caffeine assimilation.
It is essential to take into account individual physical peculiarities. People with liver disease, heart problems or hypertension should always and under all circumstances watch their caffeine intake and, if necessary, consult their doctor about the appropriate amounts to be taken.
If there are no medical problems, moderate caffeine intake is beneficial for physical exercise. Although it is true that there are other natural ways to sustain yourself without caffeine, in aerobic exercises it improves endurance; in those that demand enormous care in a short period of time (anaerobic) it contributes to reducing time by overcoming marks and in strength training, it is a good ally when it comes to minimizing muscle fatigue.