Can caffeine help boost athletic performance?

Every morning the first stop for some people is the coffee machine—or drive-through coffee shop. For others it is the refrigerator for a n energy drink.

Caffeine is what fuels many and gives us that burst of energy we need to get  started with our day or stay up later to get a project finished. What about athletes? If a baseball player took an energy shot or had a cup of coffee right before a game could that help give him a boost to play better?

There is an article that says “ New research, suggests that athletes may want to lay off the coffee and energy drinks… because it could hamper caffeine’s performance-enhancing benefits when they need them most.”

The good news is caffeine stimulates the central nervous system to reduce fatigue and drowsiness and may benefit exercise performance.

“Research has shown that it can improve endurance and increase muscular strength,” said Honor Whiteman on MedicalNewsToday.com.

Sounds great, right? Well, like anything, there is always a downside if used too much. A study was published  in the  International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism that says that too much caffeine on a regular a basis, “may desensitize athletes to the performance-enhancing effects of the drug.”

Dr. Brendan Egan and his colleagues in Dublin, Ireland did the study where they wanted to see if a quick caffeine hit would give athletes an extra edge right before an athletic competition. They tested players who used caffeine—either drank lots of coffee or an abundance of energy drinks. Each athlete was given a stick of gum before a timed race, some had caffeine in them and the others were the control group but the athlete did not know if they had taken extra caffeine.

Turns out  those who were used to drinking the equivalent  caffein of three cups of coffee a day every day,  “saw their athletic performance decline with repeated sprint tests, even after chewing the caffeinated gum.”

So it looks like if you are used to being stimulated by caffeine on a daily basis it won’t help to try to get a quick fix because your body may be immune to the additional caffeine.

With this in mind, they recommend that “athletes who drink coffee regularly should cut down in the lead-up to a sports performance. If not, they may be unlikely to reap the rewards of a caffeine supplement.”

Nowhere in the study does it say caffeine is bad for you though and in fact these days many are touting the benefits of coffee.

The American Heart Association says, “It gives you energy and may help you lose weight and sharpen your mental focus, thanks to the magic of caffeine. Studies have shown that caffeine may improve your mood, help your brain work better and improve performance during exercise.”

They also say it can lower the rate of some diseases, including heart disease, Parkinsons and Type 2 Diabetes. It’s right there on their website.

Johns Hopkins Medical Center is even touting the positive effects of the right amounts of caffeine intake. They echo the thoughts about it possibly helping stave off diseases and add Azheimer’s Disease to the list.

Coffee gets the nod over energy drinks though.

“Caffeine is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about coffee. But coffee also contains antioxidants and other active substances that may reduce internal inflammation and protect against disease,” says Diane Vizthum, M.S., R.D., research nutritionist for Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

 

So have a cup of coffee—but just not before you run a race.

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out STLSportsPage.com. Rob Rains, Editor.