Caffeine Boosts Performance on Consecutive Days of Competition

If you’re a pre-race caffeine person and have something like a relay with multiple legs in your future, you’ll benefit from caffeine before each hard segment, suggests research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Caffeine is well-known (and loved) as a legal performance aid before hard and/or long efforts. But nearly all research on its benefits in that realm has been in one-time scenarios, akin to having a cup of coffee the morning of a road race. The new research investigated whether the performance benefits are as strong on a simulated second consecutive day of competition.

Eight highly trained cross country skiers did all-out 10:00 double poling tests on consecutive days on three occasions. For two of the two-day simulated competitions, they had caffeine 75 minutes before both tests; on the third, they had a placebo both days.

For one of the caffeine trials, they had 3 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight; for the other, they had 4.5 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. These amounts are typical of what’s recommended for pre-race use; 3 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram is roughly equivalent to two cups of drip coffee.

On the first day of both caffeine trials, the skiers performed about 4 percent better than on the first day of the placebo trial. The difference was even greater the second day, about 5 percent for both doses of caffeine compared to the placebo. This was true even though the skiers reported greater muscle soreness after the first day of both caffeine trials, presumably because they had worked harder on those days than during the first placebo trial.

“On the basis of our results, [caffeine] may indeed assist in maintaining performance quality for athletes competing for consecutive days in real-life competitions,” the researchers concluded.

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