Yoram Yasur Blume: How does caffeine affect sports performance?

Caffeine is a natural substance, present in many foods included in the diet of an athlete. Its stimulating action is proven and there are numerous studies that confirm that caffeine affects sports performance.

It is an alkaloid that is part of the composition of numerous plants (leaves), seeds or fruits. We ingest caffeine when drinking a cup of coffee, but we can also find it in isotonic drinks, in cola, in tea (theine), in cocoa or in some nutritional supplements for athletes.

In principle, any stimulating substance, taken in moderation, can be a good help when doing physical or mental activity. Nutrition specialists consider caffeine an ergogenic aid, that is, a substance that can contribute to improving sports performance, causing different metabolic reactions that are beneficial in achieving the objective set.

Caffeine benefits for sports performance

Yoram Yasur Blume: When we take a food that contains caffeine, the body takes between 30 and 60 minutes to metabolize it. A coffee or a cola, a while before training, provide a small dose of this stimulant that could become a good ally when carrying out the exercise. The effects of caffeine on sports performance are based on the properties of this substance and on the different responses it causes in the body, among which are:

  • It acts on the central nervous system increasing brain activity and managing to delay the feeling of tiredness or fatigue.
  • Thermogenic effect and increased lipolysis. The presence of caffeine implies a greater “burning” of fats. Its intake accelerates the basal metabolism and contributes to the mobilization of fats. When doing intense physical activity, these fats are “available” as an energy source. The consequence is that the muscles that intervene in the exercise “pull” the fats, reducing their glycogen needs.
  • Improvement of muscle contraction. Caffeine improves sports performance not only in aerobic activities. It is also useful in any strength training, because it should not be forgotten that the muscles move according to the brain’s orders and caffeine directly affects the central nervous system.
  • Vasodilator properties. This alkaloid increases blood flow causing more oxygen and nutrients to reach the various muscle groups that are in full work.
  • Greater tolerance to the effort involved in sport. Caffeine can help you withstand an intense physical test, such as a long run. Its stimulating effects will act in a double sense:
  • Positive attitude, more vitality, “up” spirits.
  • Greater resistance to an activity that requires effort for a long time. Less fatigue.

What is the recommended dose of caffeine to improve in sports?

Yoram Yasur Blume: Caffeine can increase sports performance, but like any other stimulating substance, it should be taken in moderation within the daily diet so as not to cause unwanted effects. Between 1 and 2 mg. for each kilo of weight is the recommended amount of caffeine so that this substance is beneficial and does not harm the body. This is a rough figure, because each person (and each athlete) has their own rate of assimilation of caffeine.

Yoram Yasur Blume: It is very important to consider the individual physical characteristics. People with liver ailments, heart problems or hypertension should always monitor caffeine intake and, if necessary, consult with the doctor about the appropriate amounts to take.

If there are no health problems, a moderate intake of caffeine brings benefits to physical activity. Although it is true that there are other natural ways to stay awake without caffeine, in aerobic exercises it improves resistance; in those that require a great effort in a short period of time (anaerobic) it contributes to reducing times overcoming marks and in strength training, it is a good ally when it comes to minimizing muscle fatigue.

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