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Caffeine and running

I thought I’d blog about this as I know a lot of runners swear by a coffee to get them going before a race and you’ll be pleased to know that out of all the supplements out there, caffeine is one of the few that has evidence to suggest it works.

You need to get the balance right because too much will send your digestive system into overdrive. Like most nutrition things, it’s about finding the right amount for you. Some people are much more sensitive to caffeine than others and if you don’t currently drink coffee, I would recommend you try it on a non running day first to see how sensitive you are. It seems that coffee is definitely the choice of caffeine drink too but have you tried anything else? Coffee can be difficult to monitor the exact amounts in it because we all make it using different strengths.

So how does caffeine work?

Well, it’s a stimulant meaning that it speeds up everything in the body which includes your neurological functions, digestive functions (hence it can cause diarrhoea from excessive consumption), heart rate and every other process in the body. Research suggests that around 3mg per kg of body weight provides an effective ergogenic aid in those already consuming caffeine on a daily basis (1). Caffeine was also found to delay fatigue (2) which allows athletes to continue training for longer. This study used a sports drink containing caffeine as opposed to coffee.

So it’s good news for caffeine lovers as it may be helping your sports performance. Of course, in some cases, the effect of caffeine may be more psychological than physical but if it works for you then it won’t do any harm. I wouldn’t advise using fizzy drinks as a caffeine source mainly because they contain not nutritional value at all, the sugar in full fat versions is just wasted calories and the gas can make your stomach bloated and uncomfortable for running.

What’s your favourite caffeine source before a run?


Sports nutritionist

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