Both beginner and well-trained combat athletes know that speed, agility and quick reaction times can make the difference between a well-crafted slip and a knockout. Consistent training is the first step toward solidifying neuro-motor responses that eventually become second nature during competition and training. Strategic use of caffeine is a safe and effective way to enhance those responses and boost endurance capabilities.
Caffeine is a drug, albeit a socially acceptable one that about 90% of adults consume on a daily basis. This stimulant has no nutritional value and is not a necessary component of a well-balanced diet. However, caffeine’s ability to induce wakefulness and focus is long established, which is one reason why it’s become a staple of the masses. Precise timing and doses of caffeine benefit athletes in a wide variety of training circumstances, ranging from stop-and-go events, endurance training and high-intensity exercise lasting up to one hour. It’s theorized that caffeine functions by decreasing perception of exertion, thus allowing you to work harder without being fully aware of how tired you are. Keep in mind, though, that the direct effect of caffeine on single-event anaerobic work is yet to be determined.
Some people are completely nonresponsive to caffeine while others are very sensitive. If you’re curious about supplementing with caffeine, start with a low dose and work your way up to gauge your tolerance. It’s smart to use caffeine during the course of your training, but then taper use in the week leading up to a competition. This way you’ll ensure maximum sensitivity to caffeine on fight day. Just be sure to decrease intake slowly to avoid uncomfortable withdrawal headaches.
HOW MUCH CAFFEINE DO I NEED AS AN ATHLETE? The effects of caffeine are seen at a dose of 1.4 mg per pound of body weight.
WHEN SHOULD I CONSUME CAFFEINE? For athletic improvements, caffeine should be taken around 1 hour before your workout begins. (Personally, it takes 45 minutes for me to feel the jive.)
WHAT SIDE EFFECTS SHOULD I BE CONCERNED ABOUT? Those who are sensitive to caffeine may experience headaches and jitters even at low doses. If you’re in that boat, caffeine may not be a good choice as a supplement. However, higher intakes ranging from 1.7 to 4.0 mg/lb body weight have been associated with these side effects even in those who aren’t usually sensitive to lower doses. It should also be noted that people with acid reflux should avoid caffeine.
IS CAFFEINE A DIURETIC? DO I NEED TO ALTER MY FLUID INTAKE? The most recent academic research on the subject shows caffeine may contribute to a slight increase in urine production, but it does not significantly impair overall fluid status in the body. If you have healthy hydration habits already, then there’s no need for any changes.
IS COFFEE THE BEST WAY TO TAKE IN CAFFEINE? Coffee is not the ideal way to utilize caffeine as a performance enhancer. It’s difficult to get a precise dose of caffeine through coffee, for one thing. Additionally, experiments have demonstrated that while caffeine by itself produced favorable effects for athletes, coffee did not yield the same results, implying that a solo dose of caffeine is preferable. There may be compounds in coffee that negate the effects of the caffeine. However, though it is not as potent as isolated caffeine, coffee still offers some level of improvement.
HOW LONG DOES THE CAFFEINE BUZZ LAST? This depends on the individual response and dose. Generally, effects can be seen up to 6 hours post-ingestion. So if you’re an evening warrior, I don’t recommend caffeine as it may interfere with sleep quality.
CAFFEINE BY THE NUMBERS
Source Serving Caffeine (mg)
Brewed coffee 8 oz 40-110
Espresso Standard serving 25-214
Frappucino 12 oz 90
Tea 8 oz 9-51
Dark chocolate 60 g 10-50
Coca-Cola 12 oz can 49
Red Bull 8 oz can 80
Spike Shotgun Energy Drink 16 oz can 350
Fixx Energy Drink 20 oz can 500
Jolt Endurance Shot 60 g 150
PowerBar Sports Gel 40 g sachet 25
GU Sports Gel 32 g sachet 20
PB Speed Sports Gel 35 g sachet 40
Jolt caffeinated gum 1 stick 33
No-Doz 1 tablet 200
Vivarin 1 tablet 200