What is Caffeine and why do we consume it
Caffeine is the most commonly ingested drug in the world. It is used internationally for its physical and mental stimulation; be it by Builders, Doctors, Intellects or athletes...caffeine is used by the masses! Caffeine is, and probably always will be both legal, socially acceptable, and so long as it’s consumed within the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) legal limits, allowed to be used as a performance enhancer by athletes and sports people alike. The most common sources of caffeine include tea & coffee, chocolate, carbonated/ stimulant and sports drinks (often in the form of Guarana). According to the Australian Institute of Sport (2011) an average cup of coffee or stimulant drink can provide between 30-100mg caffeine per serving, compare this to an average caffeine supplement (containing caffeine Anhydrose) which provides approx 200mg caffeine per tablet. With the frequency that tea, coffee and carbonated drinks are consumed in the UK alone, it’s easy to see how caffeine is one of the most abused drugs in the world.
Caffeine’s role in sport & exercise
Caffeine has been on WADA’s banned substance list due to uncertainty surrounding the extent of its performance enhancing effects. In 2004 it was removed from the banned substance list, and its full benefit as an ergogenic (performance enhancing) aid could be fulfilled. In relation to performance enhancement, Caffeine exerts both positive and negative effects on our bodies. It affects people in a variety of ways, and acts differently on various parts of our body, including preferential mobilisation of fat, modifications to muscle contraction, alterations to the central nervous system, changes in focus and resilience and shifts in the hormonal response to exercise. Caffeine has been seen to exert a modest increase in muscle endurance during intermittent high intensity sports such as football, rugby or tennis, middle distance activity such as sprint cycling or running, and prolonged activity such as long distance running, swimming or walking. The added focus that comes with caffeine is also beneficial in short lasting events and when training in the gym. Consider this though, our bodies can and do form a resistance to caffeine, meaning intake must be controlled to fully utilise its effects.
How and when to consume caffeine
Caffeine releases its effects relatively quickly, and it is no longer recommended to take it approx 60 minutes prior to activity. Instead Llewellyn (2009) suggests ingesting approx 1-3 mg per kg bodyweight immediately before training, and/or during training, and towards the end of the session to maintain focus and muscle contractility when energy stores are dwindling. Llewellyn (2009) quantifies the overall benefit of caffeine using a ‘Clinical Support Rating’ designed to advise the consumer on the overall scientific effectiveness of a product....for caffeine, they award 5 out of 5.
NOTE: Caffeine is a stimulant, meaning anybody with an underlying medical condition such as a heart issue should seek the advice of a Doctor prior to commencing caffeine consumption and/or supplementation.