Does Caffeine Enhance Performance in Sports?

coffee-sportsCaffeine can be found in the seeds, leaves, stems, and roots of various plants. It is mild stimulant of the methylxanthine family. Most commonly found in coffee, tea, and soda, it can also be found in various prescription medications, diuretics, and pain relievers. Caffeine is known for its stimulating effects which increases concentration, awareness, and wakefulness. It can vary in strength and quality and some of the best coffee makers can produce high quality and potent drinks, see reviews for more.

In the professional and amateur endurance sports circuit, caffeine is believed to enhance physical and mental performance and is commonly used to increase endurance in sports such as cycling, running, and soccer. Although caffeine has been shown to decrease fatigue in athletes, it does not provide quick bursts of energy required of sprinters and swimmers. Because caffeine increases concentration abilities for one to three hours, athletes who consume caffeine enhance their performance when it comes to quick thinking and rapid reflexes.

The Glycogen Theory

Some researchers believe that caffeine improves performance in sports because caffeine delays the depletion of glycogen by burning fat instead of carbohydrates. In the first 15 minutes of exercise after caffeine has been consumed, caffeine can reduce the loss of glycogen in the body by fifty percent. The residual glycogen can then be used by the body to make energy for the rest of the exercise.

The Mental Focus Theory

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that increases neural communication, quickening reactions and increasing mental awareness. This gives athletes an edge when it comes to problem-solving and reacting quickly and effectively.

The Muscle Contraction Theory

After caffeine consumption, membrane permeability increases because calcium, sodium and potassium are transferred in your cells. Your muscles then have the ability to contract powerfully. Stronger muscle contraction means running faster, swinging further, jumping higher, and the like.

The Beta-Endorphin Theory

Endorphins help the body reduce feelings of pain and makes you think you are feeling well. After consumption of caffeine, beta-endorphins are released in greater quantities, for up to two hours after you exercise. This increase of endorphins decreases the athlete’s perceived pain and exertion, pushing the athlete to perform at top levels, past the point of pain and discomfort.

The Olympics and Caffeine

In 1984, the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency listed caffeine as a banned substance. Although popularly consumed, the urine test has to show a marked level of caffeine (12mg per 1 liter) in order for the International Olympic Committee to perceive that the athlete is making a deliberate attempt to gain advantage over his or her opponent. Although the World Anti-Doping Agency lifted the caffeine ban in 2004, it is still banned under NCAA rules, the governing body of collegiate sports.

Caffeine Side Effects

Common caffeine side effects include sleep deprivation, nausea, cramping, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, and gastrointestinal irritability. In athletes, they might experience muscle tightness, muscle cramping, and dehydration. Although caffeine was thought to have been linked to heart disease and cancer, the research is unable to consistently show a high correlation.

There are many theories that suggest how caffeine improves an athlete’s performance in sports. Maybe one is true. Or maybe all the theories work together to build a complex story about caffeine’s role in the human body. Whatever the case is, if you choose to supplement your exercise with caffeine, don’t overdo it. There is such as a thing as “overdosing” on caffeine, and it’s not pleasant. Bottoms up!