Caffeine is the most commonly used drug in the world, consumed in the form of chocolate, tea, soda and, of course, coffee (the average American drinks three cups a day). And while it's best known as a way to perk up in the morning, according to numerous studies caffeine is also a great way to boost your workout.
Caffeine’s performance-enhancing effect is so well demonstrated, in fact, that the NCAA and International Olympic Committee have rules regarding how much competitors can consume. The effects of the drug are far reaching: Not only can it benefit athletes in endurance competitions, such as long distance running or cycling, it can also help those in anaerobic competitions, including sports like soccer and weight lifting.
To optimize the positive effects of caffeine, studies suggest you should consume 3 to 6 mg per kilogram of body weight one hour before a workout or race. To put these numbers into context, an eight-ounce, generic-brewed cup of coffee contains 95 to 200 mg of caffeine (depending on the strength), according to the Mayo Clinic.
It’s also a good idea to cut back or eliminate caffeine intake three to four days prior to competition. This will decrease your tolerance, helping you maximize the effects. Keep in mind, however, that you may have symptoms of caffeine withdrawal—such as a headache—during this time.
Before using caffeine in a competition setting, you should test your reaction to the drug under a variety of training conditions. Start with a smaller dose, so you can see how caffeine affects your body. Caffeine can have a diuretic effect or cause dehydration and gastrointestinal distress. Other negative side effects may include anxiety, an inability to focus, insomnia and irritability.
If you use caffeine responsibly, you can enjoy the numerous benefits described in this slideshow. Click here to learn more.