Questions patients ask

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Can coffee improve my performance when I’m exercising?
Yes. Research papers over many years have shown that caffeine in coffee is an ‘ergogenic aid’ – which means it can enhance physical performance. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has confirmed this effect stating that a moderate intake of caffeine (3mg/kg body weight, which is around 200 -300 mg caffeine or 2-3 cups of coffee) improves endurance performance and reduces perceived exertion1.

Is the beneficial effect of coffee down to caffeine
Yes, the effects of coffee consumption on sports performance are linked to the caffeine in coffee. There is clear evidence that caffeine can improve physical performance.

 What are the benefits of coffee/caffeine for endurance exercise?
Studies have shown that in low intensity exercise over a longer duration such as running, cycling or rowing, caffeine improves time-trial performance (the time to complete a set distance) and increases time to exhaustion2,3. Caffeine is also linked with reduced feelings of muscle pain4.

What are the benefits of coffee/caffeine for high-intensity exercise?
In short-term, high-intensity exercise, caffeine can help maintain and improve short distance sprinting and jumping performances5. This can be beneficial in sports such as football and rugby, which contain short bursts of activity.

How long does the beneficial effect last?
Once consumed, the effect of caffeine will be experienced after about 20 minutes. The benefits gradually wear off as the body breaks down caffeine5.

How much coffee do I need to drink to experience this effect?
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has stated that intakes of caffeine around 3mg/kg body weight (200-300mg caffeine) increase performance in endurance sports and reduce feelings of exertion.   This equates to the amount of caffeine found in 2 – 3 cups of coffee1.

Does caffeine benefit recreational athletes as well as highly trained elite athletes?
Yes. The physiology of both groups is similar and caffeine can provide similar benefits in both groups. Consuming a caffeinated coffee beverage between 30 and 60 minutes prior to exercise can enhance both performance and enjoyment6.

Do other caffeinated drinks also improve sports performance
Research has shown that the effects of coffee consumption on sports performance are linked to caffeine. It is, therefore, likely that other caffeinated drinks will also improve sports performance.

How does caffeine help to boost my performance?
Research suggests that caffeine stimulates the production of adrenaline, which boosts energy production and improves blood flow to the muscles and the heart. As a result, caffeine may moderate fatigue and influence ratings of exertion, perceived pain and energy levels, all of which are likely to lead to improvements in performance.

I have heard that coffee is a diuretic and should be avoided before exercise. Is this true?
Although caffeine may have a mild, short-term diuretic effect, research shows that moderate consumption of caffeine does not increase the risk of dehydration during exercise7. Statements advising the avoidance of caffeinated beverages before and during exercise are unfounded. EFSA have also concluded that single doses of caffeine up to 200 mg do not raise safety concerns for adults, even if consumed less than two hours prior to intense physical exercise8.

References

  1. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) (2011). Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to caffeine and increase in physical performance during short-term high-intensity exercise (ID 737, 1486, 1489), increase in endurance performance (ID 737, 1486), increase in endurance capacity (ID 1488) and reduction in the rated perceived exertion/effort during exercise (ID 1488, 1490) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal;9(4):2053 [24 pp.].doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2011.2053
  2. Ganio M. S. et al. (2009) Effect of Caffeine on Sport-Specific Endurance Performance: A Systematic Review. J. Strength and Conditioning Research www.nsca.jscr.org
  3. Hodgson A.B. et al. (2013) The metabolic and performance effects of caffeine compared to coffee during endurance exercise. PLoS One. 8(4):e59561.
  4. Astorino T.A. et al. (2011) Effect of caffeine intake on pain perception during high-intensity exercise, Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 21(1):27-32]
  5. Astorino T.A. et al. Effect of Two Doses of Caffeine on Muscular Function during Isokinetic Exercise Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2010, DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181e3a11d
  6. Goldstein E.R. et al. (2010) Position Stand: caffeine and performance. J. International Society of Sports Nutrition www.jissn.com/content/7/1/5
  7. Zhang Y. Et al (2014) Caffeine and diuresis during rest and exercise: A meta-analysis. J Sci Med Sport, S1440-2440(14)
  8. European Food Safety Authority (2015) Scientific Opinion on the Safety of Caffeine. EFSA, Palma, Italy.

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