ASK THE SPORTS DIETITIAN Chris Fonda is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and Sports Dietitian (ProvSD) working in private practice (Nedlands, Perth, Western Australia). Fonda represented WA in men’s artistic gymnastics on a number of occasions. His focus is on team/strength/power-based sports, but he also consults with endurance athletes. Apart from sports nutrition, Chris also specialises in gastrointestinal conditions including food allergy and intolerance.
Q I’ve heard that caffeine may be beneficial for my running. Is this true?
A Yes! There is a substantial body evidence supporting the use of caffeine as an ergogenic (performance enhancing) aid in endurance sport. The main benefit that caffeine has during exercise relates to the central nervous system and its ability to reduce perception of effort. In other words, exercise can feel easier than it is! This means you can sustain exercise for a longer period or work harder. However, it’s important to remember that caffeine may not be suitable for athletes who experience negative side effects from caffeine in day-to-day life (e.g. shakiness, over-arousal) or those who feel very nervous before an event. There may also be non-responders to caffeine supplementation. This is where an Accredited Sports Dietitian (AccSD) is can work with you to determine the best strategy for your performance goals.
Q How much caffeine is best and when should I take it?
A The best dose to aim for is the lowest amount of caffeine possible to achieve a performance benefit. More is not necessarily better, and may in fact result in negative side effects. Aiming for 1-3mg/kg is a good starting point (for a 70kg athlete this would be equal to 70-210mg of caffeine). Caffeine is most commonly consumed in coffee and tea, which may be helpful before the event but isn’t always practical during exercise. Fortunately, carbohydrate gels with added caffeine, flat coke or caffeinated tablets or gums are practical alteranatives. Just make sure you check the label as the amount of caffeine does vary between sources with typical amounts ranging from 30-200mg.
Caffeine takes about 45-60 minutes to reach peak blood concentration and can last 3-4 hours at peak concentration. Traditionally, caffeine was consumed 1 hour prior to an event, but there are now strategies that include a combination of pre-event, top up doses throughout the event or in the later stages of a race.
Teaming up with your local AccSD can help you to maximise your performance, not only from a caffeine point of view, but also in your overall training and competition diet. To find an AccSD near you, head to www.sportsdietitians.com.au/findasportsdietitian