Does Caffeine Affect Athletic Performance?
If you are an athlete, then you may be one of many who enjoy a little caffeine boost in the morning, or to pump you up during training or competitions. But recently, caffeine has come under scrutiny, and has become a hotly contested topic of discussion in sports. Major athletic organizations like the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee have even strongly considered banning caffeine as a performance-enhancing substance.
Caffeine is a chemical found in coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, cola, and chocolate. With coffee being the second most widely consumed beverage only after water, caffeine is also naturally taken on a fairly regular basis worldwide. You’ve probably heard both positives and negatives about caffeine consumption, so what sort of impact, if any, does caffeine consumption have on overall athletic performance?
When Caffeine Enters the Body
To start off, what exactly happens when caffeine enters your body? Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine, and its effects can kick in as soon as 15 minutes after consumption. Once in the body, it takes about 6 hours for the caffeine to be eliminated. Blood pressure, heart rate, and stomach acid production all increase, fatty acids are released into the blood stream, and the amount of dopamine in the brain is increased, improving attention, memory, and endurance.
Caffeine and Performance
Much research has been conducted in this regard, and as we’ve said, caffeine’s role in sports/athletics is still a controversial topic. There are a few points that researchers seem to agree on—caffeine stimulates the brain allowing for better concentration, which makes it more useful in endurance activities than short-term activities. Since caffeine enables the body to use fat as its fuel source, a chemical stored in the muscles and liver called glycogen that acts as an additional fuel, can be conserved. In turn, athletes can exercise longer and harder delaying exhaustion, and keeping their energy going. After exercise, the muscle glycogen level increases, making recovery much faster and easier.
Surprisingly, a moderate dose of caffeine is enough to see some of those results, while a much higher dose actually won’t help your athletic endeavors. In fact, consuming an excessive amount of caffeine can cause jitteriness, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, dizziness, and gastrointestinal distress. Since each individual has different metabolism, diet, and caffeine consuming habits, everyone reacts to caffeine a little bit differently.
When it comes to consuming caffeine to give yourself an athletic boost, you should exercise caution. Know exactly how your body reacts to caffeine, don’t consume too much, consult a professional before you make your decision, and if you’re involved in a competition, be aware of the rules and regulations of particular athletic organizations so you are always using it within your limits.
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