The Best Way to Use Caffeine While Racing

Caffeine and You: How to Use Caffeine While Racing

It is well established that consumption of caffeine can help improve endurance performance. Through reducing the perception of effort, it makes it easier to push yourself that bit harder.

But, what is the best way of using it in your race?

Less is More

As with many things, we often seem to have a ‘a little is good, so more must be better’ attitude. Whilst a recent study showed that 200mg of caffeine improved sports performance more than 100mg did, numerous studies have indicated that lower amounts are often ample, with higher doses resulting in a bigger risk for impacting performance negatively. Interestingly, everyone responds differently to caffeine; some people respond very well, with significantly improved performance, whilst for others, deemed ‘non-responders’, consumption adds very little, if anything.

Testing out what works best for you during training is imperative for getting your dose right for race day.


Around an hour after consumption, caffeine levels in the blood hit peak levels. For this reason, timing your intake well makes a big difference. If you’re doing an Olympic and wait until the run to have any caffeine, the true benefits are unlikely to be realised in time, with (for most of us) peak concentration being achieved after the race is finished.

For shorter races, timing intake towards the start is suggested, to get the best from your performance. In longer races, it is suggested to experiment during training sessions what works best for you, as (particularly with caffeine) everyone is different.


Where can you get caffeine during a training session, or a race? You’ve all been chilling at the local coffee shop on your favourite weekend cycle route at some time or another, however stopping for a short black at the local brew house during a race is probably not going to happen!

Carbohydrate gels and coke are the most common, with various brands of gels having different quantities of caffeine. Caffeine strips are also becoming more and more popular, with a simple strip dissolving in your mouth, and then providing the hit you’re after.

Signs you’ve overdone it?

Having too much caffeine can result in difficulty concentrating, shaky hands, anxiety and heart palpitations. Again, this highlights the importance of working out how much works best for you as an individual.

Best Practice

To get the best out of using caffeine as a supplement to improve race performance, practice using it in training sessions first. This means you know what your body responds to best, resulting in your best performance on race day.

Featured photo credit: Visual Hunt

Chloe McLeod
Chloe McLeod
Chloe McLeod has had a keen interest in nutrition from a young age due to food intolerances as well as a realization about the important role food plays in an active lifestyle. She has a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition & Dietetics, a master’s degree in Public Health, has received Sports Dietetics training through the Australian Institute of Sport, and has earned qualifications for ISAK Level 1, and is a member of DAA, SDA, and PINES. She is a two-time marathoner, avid trail runner, and also enjoys staying active through snowboarding and Pilates.