Have you been wondering whether you can benefit from consuming caffeine before a race or if you should steer clear of the stimulant?

Numerous scientific studies have shown that caffeine can increase athletic endurance by reducing the effects of fatigue. You should be aware, however, that not everyone tolerates caffeine in the same way. It’s also important to consider caffeine’s potential side effects.

Before you decide whether or not to sip a cup o’ Joe before your next running event, here are some things to keep in mind:

How caffeine may benefit runners

Caffeine is a mild simulant that has been shown to help improve athletic performance. It is quickly absorbed and impacts multiple organ systems. Caffeine affects how your brain interprets fatigue and pain, and it can also help improve focus. Additionally, research shows it can improve the body’s ability to burn fat while sparing glucose for later in the race, when it is most needed.

Beware of side effects

Caffeine can cause side effects such as increased heart rate, heart palpitations, increased respiration, restlessness, dizziness, sleeplessness, nausea and anxiety. These side effects are most likely to occur if you don’t regularly consume caffeine or consume a higher-than-usual amount.

Know how much your body can handle

Everyone reacts differently to the effects of caffeine. How much you need for a performance boost will depend on your size and the amount of caffeine you regularly consume (your tolerance). Research shows that 3-6 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight is all you need to see benefits for endurance exercise (about 12 ounces of coffee for a 150-pound person), but that amount will vary from person to person.

Time it right

If you’re looking to boost your performance before a race, a study shows that the best time to do so is an hour before the event.

Where to get your caffeine

Most people think about coffee and tea when they think about caffeine sources. But you can also find the stimulant in chocolate, as well as caffeinated sports gummies and gels.

What you need to know about coffee and dehydration

Research has shown that moderate consumption of caffeinated coffee (up to 5 cups) is not dehydrating. But drinking coffee before a race may have you lining up for the port-o-potty before you begin. If your morning coffee gets things going a bit more than usual, you may need to replace some of the fluids you lose.

Test your tolerance

Just as with all foods and drinks you consume on race day, you should test your tolerance for consuming caffeine (amounts and the actual products you’ll use) before a race. It’s never a good idea to do something new before or during an event without knowing how your body will react.

Too much of a good thing isn’t so good

While caffeine has been shown to improve performance, more is not always better. Too much of the stimulant is more likely to result in the negative side effects listed above. Although using caffeine on occasion for a race day boost may be okay, it’s not a good idea to become too dependent on the stimulant.

Talk to your doctor first

If you’re planning on consuming high doses of caffeine, discuss this with your doctor. If you have any underlying health conditions, the consumption of even small doses of caffeine should be discussed with a medical professional.

Sources:

http://marathonbasics.com/content/caffeine-running-marathon

http://www.runnersworld.com/hydration-dehydration/8-things-runners-should-know-about-coffee

http://www.runnersworld.com/fuel-school/5-truths-about-running-and-caffeine

https://runnersconnect.net/running-nutrition-articles/caffeine-and-running/

http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/nutrition/do-the-performance-benefits-of-caffeine-come-at-a-cost_49856

http://strengthrunning.com/2010/07/health-benefits-of-caffeine/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21854160