Saturday, 13 Jul 2024

What’s the Buzz on Caffeine?

When it comes to kick-starting our day or fighting off the afternoon slump, many of us turn to coffee for that much-needed boost. But caffeine isn’t just found in coffee – it can also be found naturally in several other leaves, seeds, and fruits, as well as in processed foods and medications.

The amount of caffeine in our favorite foods and drinks can vary greatly, with the average American consuming around 300 milligrams per day. It’s important to note that caffeine is considered a drug and can lead to tolerance over time, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effects.

So, how much is too much? Current guidelines recommend that healthy adults limit their caffeine intake to 400 milligrams per day. This is equivalent to about four 8-ounce cups of coffee. However, due to limited research on caffeine consumption in adolescents, it’s best for teenagers and younger children to avoid energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages.

Potential Benefits of Caffeine:

  • Enhanced endurance exercise performance
  • Improved reaction time, concentration, and energy levels
  • Reduced time to complete tasks
  • Delayed feelings of fatigue and lowered sensations of exertion and pain

Potential Negative Effects of Caffeine:

  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Overstimulation and jitteriness
  • Mental confusion
  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
  • Restlessness and inability to focus
  • Gastric irritation
  • Insomnia and disrupted sleep
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Caffeine in Sport

Caffeine has been widely recognized as an “ergogenic aid” or performance-enhancer in sports. By activating the body’s receptors that counteract the effects of fatigue, caffeine can improve both mental and physical performance. However, it’s important to note that the NCAA restricts the amount of caffeine an athlete can have in their system before an event.

When using caffeine to enhance performance, it’s recommended to gradually increase intake and test it during training before using it in competitions. The timing and dosage strategies vary, but generally, it’s suggested to consume 1 milligram per kilogram of body weight about an hour before training or competitions, or during longer duration sessions or matches.

Caffeine in Your Genes

Everyone responds differently to caffeine, so it’s important to individualize dosing. The stimulating effects of caffeine can vary depending on factors such as size, gender, genes, and sensitivity. It can take as little as 15 minutes for caffeine to take effect and up to 10 hours for it to clear from the bloodstream. Some people may experience jitteriness, anxiety, and irritability, while others report enhanced cognitive function and improved performance.

It’s worth noting that caffeine should never be used as a substitute for proper nutrition and fueling. It’s always important to ensure sufficient fueling and recovery in addition to any caffeine intake.

In summary, caffeine can provide both benefits and drawbacks. It’s important to be mindful of your caffeine consumption and listen to your body’s response. For further guidance on caffeine intake and its effects on performance, it’s recommended to consult with a sports medicine doctor or dietitian.

Shawn Hueglin, PhD, RD, CSSD is a sport dietitian with the United States Olympic Committee, working primarily with team sports based in the Los Angeles area and the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center. Erica Capellino earned a master of science degree in nutrition, healthspan, and longevity from the University of Southern California. She is a registered dietitian currently working as a USA Volleyball Fellow.

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