Can caffeine boost your running performance?

The effects of caffeine on runners

It has long been a topic of debate in the running world as to potential benefits of drinking caffeine prior to a race or even during a run. New research suggests that caffeine could boost your running performance.

Researchers at the Australian Institute of Sport have suggested that having a coffee could help you run faster and burn more fat during your workout. The findings suggest that consuming even a small amount of caffeine before and during exercise can help people exercise almost a third longer.

The drawback is that a cup of coffee may be enough to help you perform better in your running, but as coffee is a diuretic, it can also inhibit you by causing dehydration, so use of it needs to be in moderation.

The Australian Institute of Sport team found that caffeine triggers the muscles to start using fat as an energy source rather than carbohydrate sugars. Caffeine has been used by many endurance athletes over the years as a way of getting extra energy out of their body's reserves during a running event.

The researchers tested the effects of caffeine on cyclists, who were allowed to drink non-fizzy cola or coffee as they pedaled. Those who did so were able to keep going longer than those who just drank water. Taking caffeine prior to exercise might help amateur runners as well as elite athletes. Some studies have found that using caffeine when exercising can result in delayed fatigue by up to 60 per cent.

Researchers at the University of Georgia found that caffeine could help reduce muscle pain. The findings, published in the Journal of Pain, found that caffeine reduced thigh-muscle pain during cycling exercise.

Participants in the study cycled for 30 minutes on two separate days. The exercise intensity was the same on both days and set to make the riders' thigh muscles hurt. Participants took either a caffeine pill or a placebo one hour before the exercise. The riders reported feeling substantially less pain in their thigh muscles after taking caffeine compared to after taking the placebo.

Form these two sets of research we can conclude that caffeine can have a positive impact on running performance, but the runner needs to be aware of the diuretic or dehydration effect and thus counter this with a firm hydration strategy too.

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