Do You Need to Cut Back on Caffeine Before Competition?
A question I get asked on a regular basis, often with a look on the face of ‘please don’t tell me the answer!’ is ‘How much do I need to cut back on coffee/caffeine before my event?’
Well, I have great news – advice to cut back on caffeine is a myth!
Why Caffeine is So Great
Caffeine is a fantastic ergogenic aid, in how it helps to improve sports performance by reducing the perception of effort. In triathlon, this usually means moving through the swim, bike or run in a more efficient manner, reducing time to complete by improving speed. Approximately 6mg per kilogram is recommended, however as individuals do respond to caffeine differently, it is a good idea to practice intake with training prior to an event. I’ve written more about this here.
Timing of intake, and route of consumption for caffeine can vary; coke, energy drinks, coffee, sports gels, sports bars, caffeine tablets and caffeine strips are all incredibly useful modes of intake, with varying quantities found between brands and products.
So I Don’t Need to Cut Back?
A recent study showed that supplementation with caffeine improved exercise performance by 3.3%, compared to control and placebo groups (2.4% improvement). Performance benefit was seen with acute supplementation during a time trial, with benefits seen in habitually low, moderate or high caffeine intake. There are many studies performed in this space, and whilst there are some studies that find benefit in a washout period, these tend to be instances where subjects were not habitually high caffeine users anyway, as such the washout period would have done very little.
Benefits of caffeine use in sport can be seen in low, moderate and high users, without a washout period pre-event. One of the benefits of this is no caffeine withdrawls; going into a race feeling tired, nauseas and with a headache is not the best form of preparation. As such, caffeine use can remain unchanged from habitual intake in the lead up to competition.
So go on, have that cuppa.