Caffeine in sports supplements: why it matters

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Caffeine is found mainly in coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate, but is also present in smaller amounts in other foods. An American study found that the average daily caffeine consumption is 180-190 mg or 1.2 mg per kilogram of body weight.

It is a powerful substance that can improve physical and mental performance, so it is no coincidence that it is marketed as a sports supplement. Caffeine is rapidly absorbed and peaks in the bloodstream after 90-100 minutes. This is why it is taken 30-60 minutes before a dosing workout depending on an athlete’s body weight, usually between 200 and 400 mg. Caffeine levels remain high for 3-4 hours and then begin to decline. Studies have shown that this substance can improve endurance, high intensity exercise and strength sports.

Caffeine has the following effects:

  • It activates areas of the brain and nervous system by reducing fatigue [1].
  • It raises adrenaline, which can increase athletic performance.
  • It causes lipolysis by increasing the body’s ability to burn fat. This results in less glycogen being expended by the muscles, which enhances endurance. Research has shown that caffeine intake before exercise increases the release of stored fat by 30%.
  • It affects endorphins that cause well-being [4].
  • It affects the motor cortex of the brain which activates the muscles [5].
  • It increases thermogenesis and therefore helps burn calories [6].


Because of these effects, caffeine increases exercise performance, which can be seen as unfair competition between athletes. Today, Olympic athletes are allowed to enjoy a cup of coffee before competing, but between 1984-2004, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned high-caffeine concentrations at all Olympic events.

One study found that 4.45 mg per kilogram of body weight, or about 400 mg of caffeine in total, increased endurance in athletes who managed to cover 2-3.2 km more than the comparative group that had taken virtual substance [7]. In a 1,500-meter run, athletes who were regular coffee consumers were 4.2 seconds faster than those who drank decaffeinated coffee. Another study found that coffee helped reduce the perception of effort, allowing athletes to work harder. Caffeine can also improve muscle endurance and repetitions by using a specific weight [10].

There are several reasons why you may prefer a caffeine supplement to drinking coffee. One reason is that caffeine, in any form, acts as a diuretic by increasing urine production, with coffee enhancing this effect as it is a drink. Caffeine supplements may be preferred by people who want to be alert but do not have the convenience of a toilet such as e.g. night bus drivers and security personnel. Coffee can also cause heartburn in some people who have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease.

However, there are two things to keep in mind about caffeine. First, not all people retain the same amount in their body. As with alcohol, some expel the substance quickly and some slowly. Second, the human body, as with other substances, develops tolerance. Consuming coffee, tea, energy drinks or dark chocolate often can have fewer benefits than supplements, and that’s because your body has developed a tolerance to caffeine. If you want to use caffeine for athletic performance in competitions, you should not consume large amounts daily in order to maintain your sensitivity.

Finally, you should know that while at a reasonable dose – up to 400 mg per day – caffeine can have athletic benefits with minimal side effects, in some people it causes increased heart rate, irritability and stomach upset. Caffeine is not recommended for people with arrhythmias or high blood pressure.

Find at a great variety in caffeine supplements for athletes.


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