Performance enhancing drugs - coffee?

February 12, 2012

I was curious about the effect of coffee and or caffeine on athletics.  Once when I was younger I tried drinking a beer before playing tennis and I was shocked by how much it cut my endurance.  I was in pretty good shape back then and very serious about tennis so perhaps I would not notice the difference today since going from so so shape to so so minus shape is not that big a drop, but who knows.  

I had always assumed that caffeine was bad for sports and then heard that some athletes were using it for training.  I decided to explore and see if there was interesting literature out there about it.  

I found what appears to be a fairly good academic summary here…

Here are the highlights –

“Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant drug in the world”

“Blood pressure, pulse rate, and stomach acid production are increased, fat stores are broken down, and fatty acids are released into the blood stream.”

They point out that like any drug you need to be careful and probably consult a doctor when using it as a performance enhancer.  (Coffee has lots of positive health effects, but may have some negative ones and clearly any drug not used in moderation even as simple as caffeine can cause problems).

And then perhaps the most interesting portion…

“Despite considerable research in this area, the role of caffeine as a performance enhancing drug is still controversial. Some of the data are conflicting, which is in part due to how the experimental studies were designed and what methods were used. However, there is general agreement in a few areas:

1.    Caffeine does not appear to benefit short term, high intensity exercise (eg. sprinting)

2.    Caffeine can enhance performance in endurance sports. “

I would have guessed the exact opposite since it gives you a burst of energy.  It seems, however, that at its best you want to drink the coffee around 3 hours before the competition.  

Did you know that the Olympic committee has caffeine as a restricted performance enhancing drug?!?!?! 

You can have some in your body, but only up to a certain level.  

I can just hear congress calling the next baseball player in and asking him scornfully if he pushed coffee on his teammates?  Remember you are under oath! 

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