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Does Coffee Make You Faster? | The Effects Of Caffeine On Performance

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– It’s no secret, caffeine can be a huge performance enhancer for many athletes out there. So much so, WADA, the World Anti-Doping Association, actually put a limit on the amount of caffeine that an athlete could consume pre-competition some years ago. That rule has since been removed. However, I know for sure that I get a big hit from caffeine. I just find an extra gear for training sessions and competitions, having had caffeine. Plus, I just love the taste a bit. But weirdly, I don’t know why, but I decided to cut coffee and caffeine out of my diet two months ago.

And, yeah, I haven’t had a drop of it since. But that’s given me an idea because today, I am having my first coffee and my first ounce of caffeine in two months. And I’m going to put it to the test to see if it really does have an effect in a time trial out on the road. Now, there’s a lot of studies out that suggest that if you don’t have caffeine day to day, or a coffee, then your body doesn’t have a chance to adapt to that. And, well, when you do have coffee or caffeine then you get a massive hit from it, and a real performance enhancement. But, if you are having coffee or caffeine day in, day out, then you do adapt to it and when you do have it on the morning, you don’t get quite as big a hit from it. So once I go back to my old coffee-drinking ways, we’ll also retest and see if that is the case, too! (upbeat music) Okay, let’s backtrack ever so slightly here because what is all this fuss about caffeine? Well, technically speaking, caffeine is what we call a psychoactive stimulant, so when we take caffeine on board with us through coffee, as I am right now, or some other means, it’s our liver that metabolizes that caffeine.

It’s then absorbed through our small intestine and our stomach, and then within 30 to 45 minutes, we could be feeling its effects. Now, the most obvious of those effects, as I’m sure many of you out there have experienced before, is its stimulating effect, which is why so many of us use it as a bit of a pick-me-up. We enjoy our coffee in the morning, just to get us going. But for athletes, there’s a slightly more strategic use behind it. See, caffeine can really affect and stimulate our central nervous system, our heart, our muscles, and our centers that control our blood pressure, which can enhance our performance. Now, obviously, we all react differently to caffeine, so putting an exact number on the enhancement improvement and performance is quite hard, but some studies out there suggest it could be somewhere around 12%.

In fact, so much that between 1984 and 2004, it was considered such an improvement and enhancement that they actually put a ban on high concentrations of caffeine for some events, including Olympic events. Now that rule was that anything over 12 micrograms of caffeine per millimeter of urine was considered illegal. Now, I do actually remember all of this back when I was a swimmer, prior to triathlon. In all honesty though, I was so young at the time, it meant very little to me.

I didn’t drink coffee and I didn’t really care much for caffeine, but I do remember being told to just avoid caffeine altogether, the reason being that it’s just far too hard to monitor and regulate the amount of caffeine that we’re consuming and we have in our system. It actually turns out that WADA, the World Anti-Doping Association, really struggled with this one too, because truly regulating the amount of caffeine that we’re taking on board and we have in our bloodstream is really tricky. And after all, we all have different metabolism and absorption rates, we’re different shapes and sizes, and also, the hydration per athlete can have a big effect, too.

So this threshold that we’re trying to set for caffeine could run the risk of actually penalizing athletes for normal caffeine consumption and caffeine consumption rates. So in 2004, this rule was dropped. So here we are, enjoying our coffee without a care in the world, and now that it’s legal, it’s actually allowed sports scientists to go into lots of detail and research to find a better use for this stimulant for athlete performance. Now, research suggests that actually, there’s more benefits in athletes that don’t regularly have caffeine or coffee and therefore aren’t adapted to its effects, which is where we left off.

So if we were to cut caffeine or coffee out of our diet for a sustained period of time, it’s proven, from this research, that when we next have our caffeine or coffee, we’ll really feel its benefits. So I’ve decided to use a 5K time trial on the bike to test the effects, and I’m going to use our regular drag strip just outside of Bath, and conveniently, just seconds away from the coffee shop. Okay, so first coffee in two months coming up. (gentle music) (coffee trickling) Brewed pretty heavily as well, (laughs) oh, God. It’s a flat-ish route, well, it’s actually got an ever-so-slight downward gradient, so expect some fast times. It’s only a slight gradient, though, so it’s still full gas all the way. Tuck down in the aerobars and let the legs do the talking. (vehicle motor rumbling) All right, here we go! Three, two, one, oh yeah! (upbeat music) (brakes squeaking) (Mark panting) – (laughs) Ow, oh, I don’t know what the results are like, obviously.

I definitely felt wired, like, (chuckles) I just wanted to give it my all! Pulling all sorts of faces which I’m not sure I would’ve been pulling had I not had caffeine, but hey ho, that was interesting. We’ll see what it’s like in a bit of time, having had caffeine every day, whoo! Ow. (gentle music) Well, I’m back another couple of months on. I’m back to my old coffee-drinking ways, well and truly back into the swing of having my cup of joe in the morning, if not followed by a few more. And we’re actually back here on a remarkably similar day, very warm by British standards, and very still. So will my body have adapted to the caffeine? Will I still get the same hit from this cup of coffee as I did two months ago? Time to find out. (funky music) Right, see, the caffeine has kicked in.

(vehicle motor rumbling) Ready to do this one. Right, three, two, one, let’s go! (upbeat rock music) Ah, I can’t say that was any easier than the last one, (laughs) oh my God! My legs are throbbing so bad! Right, I think it’s probably time for me to go away, collect myself, and we’ll come back with some of the numbers and times, ’cause I’m not ready right now. (traffic whooshing) (Mark panting) (upbeat music) (machinery clunking) Well, we’re back in the cafe, and I do apologize, but I was in absolutely no fit state to start analyzing my results after that final test run. But it has given me a bit of time to reflect on those results, how I felt, and what it all meant. Now, obviously, I was just one case study. This is all kind of a bit of fun, it’s all a little bit rough and ready, but I do think you’ll find the results quite interesting. So for the first run, having had my first coffee in a very long time, I posted a time of five minutes and 20 seconds, with an average power of 392 watts, and I tell you what, (chuckles) that one hurt of heck of a lot.

I turned myself inside out for that. And then two months later, having had coffee regularly, I’d have at least one every day, I hit up the same time trial and I posted a time of five minutes and 26 seconds, with an average power of 386 watts, so slightly slower, and also slightly lower on the watts. It hurt, but in honesty, nowhere near as much as that first one. Now, I felt absolutely wired for that first test run, and I think my facial expressions probably said just that as well, and I just felt like I found an extra gear for that first test run, having had that first coffee for a very long time. But, and it’s a very big but, it felt really quite damaging. I felt absolutely ruined after, which would worry me, if I was to inflict that much damage on myself for a long-distance event such as a triathlon. That said, perhaps it could help over the shorter distances, the sprint and Olympic distances, where you’ve got that fast-pace start, so having that kick could really help.

I have actually had a bit of time to reflect on all of this, and perhaps it can help for the slightly longer events, such as the half-Ironmans, the Ironman distance events. Because when we start to flounder in those events, actually having caffeine just to give us that little kick mid-race or towards the end of the race, could really help just get us to the end. Now, obviously caffeine does affect everyone differently, but for myself, I’ve definitely followed the trend that the research has suggested, so by cutting out the caffeine and then bringing it back in towards the race could really help myself.

And I do suggest that maybe you play around with this yourself, either in training or for your race. Now if you have enjoyed today’s video, please do hit that thumbs-up button, and if you’d like to see more from GTN, you can click on the globe and subscribe to the channel. If you’d like to see our fat max test video, you can see that by clicking just up here, and if you’d like to see five supplements for a triathlon, you can see that by clicking just down there!.

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