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Caffeine timing

When to drink your coffee for maximum results?

There is no question that caffeine improves performance.  This article delves a little deeper and will give you an understanding of when to drink before training, competing so that you getting maximal results.

 

The general consensus is that its best to consume caffeine 60 minutes prior to when you want its fullest effects.  This protocol was outlined by researchers (Spreit & Graham,1995) when working with elite cyclists and measuring the response of various doses.

 

All participants consumed a caffeine capsule 60 minutes before testing and had blood samples taken intermittently to measure caffeine levels in the blood. 

 

Below you can see that caffeine concentration peaked at 65 minutes post-ingestion.  Since then, there hasn’t been an awful lot to challenge this and guidelines have passed from study to study.  However, there are a number of factors that athletes should consider before implementing.

 

caffeine timing

 

Considerations

Metabolism 

Caffeine is primarily broken down in the liver by a family of enzymes called cytochrome P-450 oxygenases.  Much of the interindividual differences people experience is due to the genetic differences within this enzyme.  Some of us are "fast" responders and some of us are "slow" responders.

 

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Fast responders typically feel the effects of caffeine faster and enjoy the benefits of alertness, improved cognitive function and more energy more than their counterparts. Slow responders typically feel restless, jittery and have disturbed sleep. Fortunately it is estimated that over 90% of us are "fast" responders. 

 

Next time you have a coffee, take a note how long it takes before it hits and when do you feel more alert?

 

Exercise Length

 

There are situations where your 'pre-workout' actually should be an 'intra-workout'.  Let's use my weightlifting training as an example.  I  spend approximately 15 minutes mobilising and completing activation work, followed by 5-10 minutes of empty barbell work and then build towards my desired load for the day. 

 

Realistically, I only want to finish consuming my pre-workout coffee 20 minutes before my session so that I can feel its full effects right at the time I start loading the bar for my first main exercise.

 

If you are taking part in long duration aerobic exercise (60 minutes+) then ingesting caffeine throughout your training is actually the right way to go.  A good example of this is professional cyclists, who have historically ditched their carbohydrate drinks as they approach the final leg of a stage and replace it with flat coca cola. 

 

This has previously perplexed scientists, as the caffeine levels of cola are only around 2mg/kg.  However, we now know that this is just enough to improve endurance performance. 

 

More research has been carried out and it has been shown that ingesting 6mg/kg before a time trial or 6 x 1 mg/kg throughout the time trial both caused a 3.4% reduction in time.

 

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Consumption

 

Another important variable is how you consume your caffeine. In most research studies caffeine is ingested via a pill and not via a coffee drink.  This means that 100% of caffeine is 'dosed' immediately.

 

In reality, whether you are drinking coffee or an energy drink, you would be considered a maniac to just chug the whole thing in one.  Or just a bit odd. 

If you are working towards a specific start time then ensure you consume your coffee quickly so that it can be in your system and metabolising faster.

As a side note, you may also want to consider drinking a stronger coffee with less volume, so that you don't have an excess of liquid in your system, i.e an espresso.

 

Summary

Caffeine enters the blood stream quickly and its effects can be felt almost immediately. When developing a nutrition strategy for competition and training we recommend that you factor in how long you need to perform for, how you have historically reacted to caffeine and how you are going to be consuming it.

 

It is not uncommon for athletes to tailor their protein, carb and fat consumption dependent on the task, so why would your caffeine intake be any different?

 

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