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Caffeine and Athletic Performance

How does caffeine affect athletic performance?

Many people like caffeine because it makes them feel more alert, gives them more energy, improves their mood, and makes them more productive. Athletes often use caffeine to help them perform better, both in routine workouts and in competition.

Like other drugs, caffeine can provide some benefits, but too much can lead to problems. The effect of caffeine on athletic performance has been studied since the 1800s. Caffeine has been proven in studies to:

  • increase concentration
  • improve coordination and speed
  • increase heart rate
  • decrease feelings of pain and fatigue
  • increase the burning of fat

Many studies have shown caffeine improves aerobic performance. Caffeine has limited benefits in weight training. Taking 100 mg to 300 mg would be enough to improve your performance. Doses higher than 300 mg also have been shown to increase performance, but side effects increase.

What are the side effects of athletes taking caffeine?

Side effects are dose related – the higher the dose the more side effects.

Side effects from caffeine include:

  • nausea
  • muscle tremors
  • headaches
  • irregular heart rhythms (cardiac arrhythmias)

It is not true that caffeine can cause an athlete to produce more urine and lose more water. Studies have shown caffeine does not have much of an effect on fluid status or electrolyte balances.

Is there a limit on how much caffeine I can have?

The current list of drugs banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) contains more than 40 different stimulants. Caffeine used to be on this list, but it was taken off of the list in January 2005.

What are common sources of caffeine?

The table below lists items that contain caffeine.


Product            Milligrams (mg) of Caffeine per Dose
-------------------------------------------------------
1 cup of coffee                   100 (mg)

1 Red Bull Drink (8.4 oz)           80 mg

1 Monster Energy Drink (16 oz)    160 mg

1 Diet Coke (12 oz)                46 mg

1 NO DOZ                          100 mg

1 Anacin                           32 mg

1 Excedrin                         65 mg
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What should I keep in mind?

  1. Be aware of the caffeine in your food, drinks, and medicine, including nonprescription drugs.
  2. Know how much caffeine you consume during the course of a day.
  3. Listen to your body. Know how caffeine affects you. If you have ill effects from caffeine, cut back.
  4. Don't try using caffeine to give you a boost during competition if you haven't used caffeine before.
  5. If you feel like coffee improves your performance, be sure you don't consume so much that you have unwanted side effects.
  6. Be careful when you use caffeine. It is easy to build tolerance.
  7. Caffeine withdrawal can cause mood shifts, headaches, nausea, tremors, and fatigue.

Use caffeine carefully. Too much caffeine may be bad for you.

Written by Jackie Berning, PhD, RD, for RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-07-16
Last reviewed: 2010-06-30
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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