Cyclists drink coffee for a number of reasons. For many, it helps perk them up if they happen to feel sluggish on the bike or their concentration levels start to drop off. For others, it’s simply a social occasion, and a reason to stop off during a ride.
But there may be another reason. And that is, if used correctly, it could improve your performance.
Caffeine and performance
A body of research over the past ten years have shown a significant improvement in cycling performance when caffeine has been ingested.
One particular study found that performance could increase by up to five per cent! This may not seem like much, but in a sport such as cycling, where every second counts, this margin is massive.
Other studies have also shown caffeine to have a positive effect on reducing leg muscle pain as well as fat burning, although this research is in its infancy.
How does it work?
Caffeine is a stimulant, which help improve concentration and sharpen reactions by speeding up messages that fire to and from the brain.
Without getting complex, caffeine exerts its effects on the central nervous system by altering the perception of fatigue, enabling cyclists to ride harder for longer, without tiring.
Caffeine can become addictive and excessive consumption can lead to a number of other issues and side effects such as nervousness, restlessness, irregular heartbeats and severe stomach aches and insomnia. It also has psychotropic properties – alters mood – and acts as a mild diuretic – makes you wee more. Despite what some people believe, there is little research, which suggests that it acts as a strong diuretic.
Studies generally agree that 1-3mg of caffeine per kg of body mass before you ride will help improve performance. But be wary, as caffeine can have different effects on people, depending on how sensitive you are to caffeine and how often you use it.
Examples of drinks and their caffeine content
Espresso (1 shot) – 100mg
Tea (250ml) – 25mg
Coca Cola (330ml) – 32mg
Instant coffee (250ml) – 60mg