It is a literal buzzword in cycling. Read any nutrition guide, talk to any Pro, and listen to any café stop order, and you'll realise quickly that caffeine isn't just a day starter.
At Wiggle, we stock a huge number of nutrition products, all the way from peanut butter to protein shakes. But, we've noticed recently that more and more products have caffeine included, but why?
We went on a mission to find out...
Question 1: Does caffeine improve performance?
The first, and most frequently asked question about caffeine, is does it improve performance?
It does a great job of getting you to work in the morning, but will it actually make you run, ride or swim faster?
We asked Ted Munsen, Performance Nutritionist at Science in Sport:
"Caffeine acts centrally on the brain to lower the perception of effort, which is particularly noticeable in longer endurance events like cycling or distance running."
So it would seem that caffeine plays as much part in your mental performance as your physical one, and not just for short races or sprint efforts.
Ted continues: "In distance events lasting over 90 minutes or high intensity events under 90 minutes, mental tiredness as well as physical fatigue plays a large role in determining performance as the event progresses. Caffeine can help to maintain physical performance in this situation, helping to increase mental concentration and reduce perceived fatigue."
So maybe think about taking some caffeine not just before, but also during your event!
Question 2: How much caffeine do you need for sport?
So the benefits are clear, but how much should caffeine should you have on event day?
We've heard the horror stories of too much caffeine day to day, but is there a limit when you're competing or reaching for the PB?
Helena, caffeine expert and founder of Truestart Coffee, had this to say on managing caffeine consumption:
"It's really important to manage your caffeine intake, just as you manage the rest of your nutrition. If you have too little caffeine you won't benefit from the positive impact to your training and racing, such as increased mental focus and physical endurance. Equally, if you consume too much caffeine you will experience adverse side effects that many of us are familiar with such as crashes or heart palpitations.
Everyone has a different tolerance so the key is working out what works for you, then sticking to it. Whether it's a scoop, sachet or Hero bar, every serving of TrueStart Coffee has an optimum, reliable 95mg of natural caffeine so you will feel the boost without the crash."
Question 3: Will normal coffee work well?
With so much investment in the science behind sport nutrition, it's hard to believe that a traditional mug of coffee will do. Or is it a case of "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it"?
Here is High5 Sports Nutrition's James Worley's take:
"Whilst coffee is warming to the body, there are plenty of alternatives to get that performance enhancing caffeine kick. Scientifically there is no difference between using coffee for your caffeine or using a sports nutrition product.
The benefit of using a sports nutrition product means that you can also get other important nutrients, our HIGH5 EnergyGel Plus & IsoGel Plus both contain 30mg of Caffeine, whilst IsoGel X’treme contains 100mg of Caffeine, but they also have carbohydrate and electrolytes."
Question 4: Does caffeine dehydrate you?
It is often though that caffeine dehydrates the body, which could damage performance. How would you counteract this with sports nutrition products?’
Here is High5 Sports Nutrition's James Worley's advice:
"Contrary to belief, caffeine actually doesn't dehydrate the body during exercise.
Caffeine can be very beneficial during exercise, helping to increase concentration, focus, and also reduce the feelings of tiredness and fatigue.
When taken in a scientific dose (2-6mg per kilogram of bodyweight), caffeine can significantly increase endurance performance. If you are worried about dehydration, focussing on getting enough fluids and electrolytes is going to be key.
Use HIGH5 ZERO or HIGH5 EnergySource during exercise to help replace the fluids and electrolytes lost during exercise."
After speaking to 3 different nutrition specialists, we are convinced that caffeine can make a difference to our running, swimming and cycling; but, as with any sport nutrition, it has to taste great.
Stay tuned to our Youtube channel for a Wiggle Taste Test video, coming soon!