Whether it’s in the form of coffee, sports drinks or energy gels, runners are mad about caffeine. It helps them to get out of bed on a cold dark morning for training and powers them through the final miles of a long race.
But are the benefits of caffeine all in the head? Does coffee help you to achieve a better performance? Can you drink coffee before you run?
Caffeine is scientifically proven to enhance runners performance in a number of ways. How does caffeine help runners :
Caffeine Increases Endurance
Caffeine stimulates a runners central nervous system altering your perception of pain and allowing you to push yourself harder. So running while caffeinated should feel easier than running without coffee or an energy gel.
Caffeine also helps you to run more efficiently.
When you are running, the body uses glycogen for energy. Once your glycogen is depleted you can feel like you’ve run out of energy (hit the wall). Caffeine encourages the body to use fat as energy rather than glycogen helping you to run for longer.
Across 74 studies on the effects of caffeine on a runner performance, the average improvement in performance was 5 percent. Runners doing longer distances like a marathon benefited most, with sprinters seeing minimal difference.
Caffeine Improves Recovery
Caffeine doesn’t just help to enhance a runners performance, it has also been proven to aid recovery.
Research by the American Physiological Society found that when athletes consumed caffeine with carbohydrates the glycogen levels in muscles were 66% higher 4 hours after exercise than when caffeine wasn’t consumed.
Increased glycogen levels in muscles speeds up recovery and makes the next days workout more productive.
Other research has found that caffeine decreases muscle soreness after exercise.
Getting The Most Out of Caffeine
Research has found that the runners who get the greatest benefit from caffeine on race day, consumed less for at least the week before.
Runners who restricted their caffeine intake to half a cup a day for seven days before a race got the biggest boost.
You should consume 6mg of caffeine per kg of body weight one hour before your race for the best result.
Nothing New on Race Day
Up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day is said to be safe for most adults. That’s roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of coke or two “energy shot” drinks.
The effects of caffeine on runners differ vastly from person to person, so if you don’t drink coffee before training runs, don’t do it on race day.
Experiment with caffeine consumption when you’re training and work out what works for you.
Do you drink coffee before you run? Do you swear by caffeine energy gels?