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The effect of caffeine on sports performance 

When you think of waking up in the morning, you might immediately think… right, coffee! Of course this is not necessarily about the black drink itself, but about the caffeine that is in it. But did you know caffeine is also often used by athletes in a competition or training? Does caffeine actually have an effect on sports performance? And if so, how much and when should you best consume it? In this article we tell you all about caffeine and sports!

What does caffeine do? 

Caffeine is not a body’s own substance and therefore does not really belong in the body. The substance itself does not have a specific function, however you still notice an effect when you drink a strong cup of coffee for example. How does this work?

When consuming caffeine, this is quickly absorbed into the blood. The blood circulates the caffeine through the body, for example to the brain and kidneys. Once arrived at the destination, it will bind to specific receptors (receivers), after which it performs its function. But wait... caffeine did not have a specific function, right? That's right. But one of the things that caffeine does do, is taking a spot on a receptor which is originally meant for another substance. This other substance is called “adenosine”. When adenosine binds to the receptor, it decreases the brain activity, which makes you feel tired. This is normal, especially for a long working day. However, when caffeine is taking its place, this means that adenosine can no longer bind to the receptor and therefore will no longer do its work. The result is that you feel less tired and you even feel more awake and alert! 

The effect of caffeine on sports performance

Whether the caffeine has an effect on your sports performance? Yes, that is possible. Scientific research has shown that taking caffeine can lead to better performance during a time trial. How does that work? Probably because caffeine results in a decreased feeling of fatigue. In addition, it would also reduce the perception of intensity, pain and fatigue. This might allow you to push yourself harder, which can result in better performance. Therefore, the intake of caffeine before/during a competition or heavy training can be very useful!

Yet, there is still something important to know when you want to use caffeine for your sports performance. The best effect of caffeine is obtained about 1 hour after consuming it. Therefore, it makes less sense to take it just before a short race (less than an hour) or just before the finish of a longer race. 

Vifit Sport energy gels with caffeine.

In the autumn, Vifit Sport will launch the new energy range. In addition to energy bars and gels, there is also a Vifit Sport energy gel containing 50 mg of caffeine (similar to a very small cup of coffee). Because it takes a while before all caffeine is completely absorbed into the body, it is wise to take these caffeine gels about 40 - 60 minutes before training or competition. If you have a longer session you can also choose to take the caffeine gels during the workout or match, for example 40 - 60 min for the important, often decisive parts of the game (just like the professional riders of team LottoNL-Jumbo do!). However, be careful with the intake of caffeine.  Too much caffeine can lead to side effects such as headaches, anxiety, dizziness and nausea. Especially when you are not used to consume caffeine in daily life. 

Did you know… that the flavour and size of the Vifit Sport caffeine gel has a specific reason? 

The flavour is Cola Vanilla or Chocolate Mocha and the gels are a little bigger in size compared to the other gels to obtain an optimal (and acceptable) taste. Why and how? Caffeine itself tastes quite bitter, which will can make you dislike the taste. The caffeine gels of Vifit Sport contain a higher amount of water and are therefore bigger in size, to prevent a too strong caffeine / bitterness perception. This makes them more acceptable to consume. Little side advantage: due to the bigger size of the caffeine gel, you can easily feel which one you need to grab while you are cycling or running!

All caffeine facts in a row: 

  • A very small cup of coffee contains about 50mg of caffeine, just as much as an energy gel from Vifit Sport. A can of cola usually contains between 25 and 40mg of caffeine.
  • How strong the body responds to caffeine can vary from person to person.
  • The best effect of caffeine is obtained about 1 hour after taking it. Take this into account when using it in a competition or training.
  • Be careful with the intake of caffeine, because too much can lead to unpleasant side effects.

Author: Monique van de Velde, on behalf of Vifit Sport

References:
1. Spriet LL. Exercise and Sport Performance with Low Doses of Caffeine. Sport Med. 2014;44(Suppl 2):S175–84. 
2. Burke LM. Practical Issues in Evidence-Based Use of Performance Supplements: Supplement Interactions,Repeated Use and Individual Responses. Sport Med. 2017;47(s1):79–100. 
3. Maughan RJ, Burke LM, Dvorak J, Larson-Meyer DE, Peeling P, Phillips SM, et al. IOC consensus statement: Dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete. Br J Sports Med. 2018;52(7):439–55. 

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