Thursday, July 23, 2009

Smart SMALL Dosing of Caffeine can be Super Performance Booster

ResearchBlogging.orgThere is a FABULOUS survey article on caffeine use in sports performance from May 2009. Big Take away: caffeine, yes, does have a performance enhancement effect on a whole lot of stuff BUT there are also down sides. BUT BUT it seems that dose and timing have an effect PLUS small doses are JUST AS effective as larger ones. isn't that frickin' cool?

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research:
May 2008 - Volume 22 - Issue 3 - pp 978-986
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181660cec

Caffeine Use in Sports: Considerations for the Athlete
Sökmen, Bülent; Armstrong, Lawrence E; Kraemer, William J; Casa, Douglas J; Dias, Joao C; Judelson, Daniel A; Maresh, Carl M


The ergogenic effects of caffeine on athletic performance have been shown in many studies, and its broad range of metabolic, hormonal, and physiologic effects has been recorded, as this review of the literature shows. However, few caffeine studies have been published to include cognitive and physiologic considerations for the athlete. The following practical recommendations consider the global effects of caffeine on the body: Lower doses can be as effective as higher doses during exercise performance without any negative coincidence; after a period of cessation, restarting caffeine intake at a low amount before performance can provide the same ergogenic effects as acute intake; caffeine can be taken gradually at low doses to avoid tolerance during the course of 3 or 4 days, just before intense training to sustain exercise intensity; and caffeine can improve cognitive aspects of performance, such as concentration, when an athlete has not slept well. Athletes and coaches also must consider how a person's body size, age, gender, previous use, level of tolerance, and the dose itself all influence the ergogenic effects of caffeine on sports performance.
Cool. What the study suggests is that well hmm, all the use of taurine or (my fave) tyrosine to boost hard workouts etc may be set aside for a low dose snort for a few days leading up to that "intense training."

Now the big contribution of this article for practical applications in coaching is that it looks at a bunch of effects that need to be considered to build an appropriate "dosing strategy"

Power/Speed Very Fast. The article begins its consideration by looking at caffeine's effects on power. Main hit: peak power in 6 secs of the wingate test. So benefit to phosphagen system dominant activities. Caffeien also seems to lower pain perception. hmm. IF you've ever done a wingate test that could be a Good Thing. Not so clear (yet) there's any big boost to glycolytic-heavy events.

Cognitive Function and Skill. Intriguingly in sports like Tennis, the paper shows, hitting accuracy has gone up. Now is that because of its mental altertness effects? or the CA++ happening? The authors really emphasize that caffeine use has to be thought of not as a single factor effect, but look at the range of ways it acts on physiologic as well as cognitive function. And habituation. A biggie on figuring out dosing is how habituated to it a person already is.

Withdrawl. Likewise, the inverse of being on caffeine is going off it. So if there's a desire to increase the effectiveness by getting off it for awhile before a competition, then the authors recommend being sure to do so at least a week before, since reactions to withdrawl are individual but generally peak 24-48 hours after stopping. From personal experience, these can be harsh. The authors actually suggest tapering off rather than cold turkey to reduce training impact.

The key thing in the study is not being a big caffeine head already so that one is not tolerant of it.

Dosing. And what do we mean by caffeine head? Apparently not necessarily a coffee drinker. Coffee it seems can actually blunt the effects of caffeine, so for performance, we're talking capsules.

THen the question is how much and when? low level doses during the day (75mg) improved cognitive function over the day. Costs? sleep gets screwed up, which has its own negative effects on other aspects of performance. SO how use the fact that caffeine effects peak about 75mins post ingestion and are cleared from the body in about 6-7 hours post ingestion?

Again, super cool that a dose as small as 5mg (that's it; just 5mg) can have a huge effect on someone not habituated to caffeine. And that in men, 10mg (and that's it) significantly reduced the experience of leg pain in a cycling experiment. What about the habituated? The authors say that recent work has shown that there's no bigger ergogenic effect in taking anything greater than 9 mg·kg.

SO considering that the usually size of a caffeine pill is 200mg, are we perhaps overdosing?? The authors might say "that depends." What's your dosing strategy??

HYDRATION AND CAFFEINE. And did you know, the authors point out, that it's a big misconception that caffeine leads to dehydration. As to the popular use of blending caffeine with everything else? dunno - yet "The effects of ingesting caffeine with a carbohydrate solution, with an amino acid solution, and during creatine loading require further study."

Bottom line: caffeine use can be great for certain types of sports performance stuff; low dosing with as little as 5-10 mg (that's nothing - but it's super something) can be hugely significant.Key thing: figuring out a dosing strategy is "multi-factorial" - it's not well i gotta run all day tomorrow so i'll amp up caffeine in the morning with my double espresso." Dam.

DOSING STRATEGY: small. The above is a great example of what makes a survey article super: it's able to look at a wealth of data on a topic over years and see where the consensus lies, if there's consensus. Here, it's pretty clearly, happily, less is more, and can be a whole lot of more, when dosed smart.

Sökmen B, Armstrong LE, Kraemer WJ, Casa DJ, Dias JC, Judelson DA, & Maresh CM (2008). Caffeine use in sports: considerations for the athlete. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, 22 (3), 978-86 PMID: 18438212

1 comment:

Mike T Nelson said...

5 mg and 10 mg of it is pretty much NOTHING. What type of trial was done--randomized, placebo controlled? Seems too small for an effect, but I am hopefully.

What have you seen on caffeine for strength/ power and the rationale? From what I have seen, it is still pretty mixed.

Rock on and thanks for the info!
Mike T Nelson
Extreme Human Performance


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