Caffeine is the world’s most consumed central nervous system (CNS) stimulant and is abused/utilized daily by millions of people worldwide. Our CNS is part of the nervous system involving the brain and spinal cord. Caffeine has the ability to affect the CNS through its interactions with your adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a substance which can induce a state of drowsiness when it binds to its receptor. Caffeine has the ability to block this receptor, preventing the feeling of drowsiness which it is well known for. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, multivitamins, and many other commonly consumed products.
Caffeine receives a lot of attention in mainstream media and the messages can often be conflicting. As a performance enhancer, caffeine can be effective, providing what feels like a boost of energy from around 30 minutes until 3-4 hours following consumption. It is most effective in longer endurance events than in shorter exercise durations (8-20 mins) and is negligible in sprint events. Individuals who do not consume caffeine regularly, such as those who don’t drink coffee, gain more of an advantage when supplementing caffeine than those who have a tolerance to caffeine from repeated exposure. The amount of caffeine needed for these benefits is around 3-9 mg/kg consumed around one hour before exercise. A widely spread myth about caffeine is that it may be dehydrating; this is untrue. Research shows that caffeine does not have dehydrating effects when taken before exercise (1).
Everyone responds to caffeine differently, and just because your teammate or training buddy gains an increase in performance with it, it does not mean you will. You may find yourself with an upset stomach, nauseated, or anxious. There are many ways to consume caffeine, such as coffee, energy gels, pre-workouts, and caffeine tablets. Different people prefer different methods of supplementation but the main thing to remember is if you’re considering supplementing with caffeine then the best way to approach is through trial and error; find out what type and how much, if any, works for you. Some people perform better without it, so don’t assume you need to use it!