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Caffeine and Sprint Performance

Researchers at the School of Health Sciences at the University of Wales Institute recently concluded a study examining the effects of caffeine on sprint performance. Caffeine is one of the few performance enhancing drugs which is no longer on the Wold Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned substances.

In 2004 caffeine was removed from the list of banned substances even though it is known to have a performance enhancing effect on endurance. Today, recreational, amateur and professional athletes may use caffeine, regardless of how it effects performance. While much research has shown its positive effect on endurance, few reliable studies have been completed on its effect in power, or sprint style athletics.

Lifting weights at the gym, or doing short bursts of high intensity workouts are in the same category as sprinting sports, and this begs the question; does caffeine really make a difference? The researchers argue that many of the studies previously done on this topic have failed to control for things like the condition of the test subjects, caloric intake prior to study, dosage, and more.

In this study, 17 well trained male athletes, averaging 24 years old participated. They were given either a placebo, 2mg, 4mg, or 6mg dose of caffeine in the form of a gel capsule for each of the 7 trials with the exception of the first one. In each of the 7 trials, the participants were required to max out for a full minute. Maximal force was measured for each participant during each trial. Since it was a double blind study, neither the athletes nor the researchers had any biases throughout the trial.

Examining the effect of the dose size is important to find out if larger quantities of caffeine have any impact on performance, even if reasonable doses don't. This was a unique aspect to this study which had an interesting result. Unlike the studies on endurance, dose size did not have any effect on performance. Additionally, there were no significant changes in the maximal output for the athletes with caffeine compared to those who took the placebo.

These results show growing evidence that caffeine does not have any impact on performance when it comes to power training. Many supplement companies push products with caffeine in them to elicit better performance at the gym, but this reliable research indicates it has little or no impact.

Reference

Glaister, M et al. 2012. “Caffeine and Sprinting performance: Dose Response and Efficacy” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 26(4).1001-1005.

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