If you already drink coffee, tea, or cola, you know that caffeine is a stimulant that helps you concentrate and stay alert. But there’s more to caffeine than cognitive benefits. In the new book, Caffeine for Sports Performance, authors Louise Burke, Ben Desbrow, and Lawrence Spriet explain how the serious athlete can enhance performance in a variety of areas by knowing the hows and whys of caffeine supplementation.
Some questions answered in this book:
- How did caffeine emerge historically as an ergogenic (performance enhancing) aid?”
- How does caffeine operate at a cellular level?”
- What are the specific performance-enhancing features of caffeine use for athletes?
- What is an optimal dosage and what are the best sources?
- Are there side effects that can be minimized by manipulating the timing and dose?
- What should I know about how caffeine can affect sleep and hydration?
- How can I design an optimal caffeine supplementation program for myself?”
One strength of the book is that the information is presented in a reader-friendly style, even when academic topics like physiology are presented. The authors use tables and graphs throughout to help the reader interpret existing research on caffeine and performance.
Some interesting details I took from the book:
- The earliest use of coffee from roasted beans began in the Middle East in the 1400s
- Celebrity athlete endorsements of Pepsi appeared as early as 1909
- Scientific research on caffeine as an ergogenic aid began in 1903 and peaked in the 1970s
- Peak levels of caffeine in the blood occur within 45 to 90 minutes after ingestion and the half-life is 3.5 to 5 hours
- In some people, availability of plasma free fatty acids as a fuel source increases in response to caffeine, but this depends on dosage
- The performance-enhancing qualities of caffeine appear to be due more to central nervous system stimulation than its effects on substrate (fatty acids, glycogen) utilization
- Large variability in the caffeine content of commercially available coffee makes it a poor choice for systematic use in sports
- Caffeine use (per person) is greatest in the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden (1995 data). Usage rates are more than twice that seen in the United States.
- Coffee consumption per person is greatest in Finland (2010)
- Caffeine is used by approximately 1/4 of athletes
- The most frequently identified within-competition source of caffeine for endurance athletes is cola drinks
For readers interested in summaries of individual efficacy studies, tables are provided that reveal the authors, subjects, sport studied, caffeine dose, outcome (related to performance enhancement), and technical comments. The authors also provide a link to a website that displays updated versions of these tables to accommodate new research.
If you’re looking for evidence-based suggestions for using caffeine to enhance your athletic performance, I highly recommend this book.