Does Caffeine Really Give You Supreme Athletic Ability?

Caffeine is adored by many and despised by others. Some people cannot live without it, and others consider it to be one of the most dangerous drugs on the market. Caffeine affects the body in physiological ways. It physically increases blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle breakdown. Chemically, caffeine is much more complicated. It triggers the release of stomach acid which causes a fat breakdown. And caffeine blocks the neurotransmitter adenosine, which causes fatigue. Caffeine has become a staple for athletes because of the added alertness it provides and it is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list. However, caffeine’s reputation should be considered when using it for athletics or any other long-term event, because addiction can occur. The side effects of over-dosage can include migraines, nausea, and insomnia. But when consumed at an appropriate dosage, athletes can benefit from caffeine greatly.

According to a study done by Rice University, endurance sports athletes benefit the most from caffeine. The complex sugar, glycogen, feeds the muscles and builds them. Exhaustion happens when no glycogen is left. As long as one’s body contains glycogen, fat stores can be utilized. According to the study, caffeine mobilizes fat stores and encourages working muscles to use fat as a fuel. This “fuel” is energy, which can cause a boost in the middle of a long work out. All of the subjects of the study were able to exercise for a longer period before becoming exhausted. The study also showed that the exercise seemed easier for participants with caffeine than for those who had not consumed it. Caffeine has many benefits for high endurance athletes.

In another study done by St. Mary’s University, the results showed that caffeine could increase the size of neurotransmitters in the brain, and potentially decrease pain. The head researcher stated that because of the size increase the neurotransmitter cannot fit into the receptor, which does not release the stimulant for pain.

“A large body of research shows caffeine helps in ‘pretty much every kind of endurance exercise,’ giving a performance advantage of 1.5 percent to 5 percent,” exercise physiologist Mark Glaister said. Glaister recommends the dose of 30-60 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight.
In the St. Mary’s study, the quality of caffeine from different sources was also examined. Energy drinks, coffee, caffeine pills, and powders were the sources evaluated. Powdered caffeine is in the process of becoming illegal because it is impossible to measure with regular kitchen equipment. One teen in Ohio died due to an overdose on powdered caffeine. In its pure form, one teaspoon is equivalent to 25 cups of espresso.

Energy drinks were most common among athletes due to their large sizes, but this could also be detrimental to the unknowing consumer. Coffee was decided to be the best source of caffeine. When consumed in moderation, it can increase an athlete’s performance by 1.5 to 5 percent.

Caffeine could have boundless benefits for high endurance athletes. It can increase their energy levels and mobilize fat stores. It can even make exercise easier while suppressing pain, it can increase performance advantage. As long as caffeine is consumed in moderation, and the consumer knows the risks, the benefits can potentially outweigh its side effects.