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Benefits of coffee on sports performance

The Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC) has held a roundtable with a panel of experts in the field of sports science and nutrition to explore the role of caffeine in sports performance.
Professor Greg Whyte OBE, a former Olympian and Professor in Applied Sport & Exercise Science at Liverpool John Moores University, UK, Dr Javier Gonzalez, a lecturer in Human and Applied Physiology at the University of Bath, UK, and Dr Sophie Killer, a performance nutritionist at British Athletics came together to present a wide variety of research which covered all aspects of coffee, caffeine and sports performance from fluid balance and intake levels, to what is currently understood about caffeine’s mechanisms.
Key highlights from the roundtable include:
  • Caffeine is most effective during endurance sports (e.g. running, cycling, rowing) lasting more than five minutes
  • Caffeine can improve short term high-intensity performance
  • Caffeine has been shown to reduce muscle pain during endurance exercise, reduce muscle soreness after strength exercises, and assist in the recovery process
  • Coffee can contribute to fluid balance and the suggestion that caffeinated beverages should be avoid prior to and during exercise is unfounded
Research has shown that drinking a cup of coffee an hour before exercise can help us to exercise harder and for 30% longer.1,2,3 Caffeine, which occurs naturally in coffee, improves alertness and the ability to sustain motor skills to make exercise feel easier, positively impacting our persistence, vigour and output levels.1,2,3
Consuming the equivalent of 3-4mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight one hour prior to exercise improves endurance and performance4 in cycling,2,5,6  high intensity running,7 repeated sprinting8 and sports such as football9,10 and rugby.11,12
It should be noted that, according to the European Food Safety Authority Scientific Opinion on the safety of caffeine (May 2015), a reduction in perceived exertion/effort during exercise can be considered a potential adverse health effect for the general population, due to the fact that perception of fatigue is a physiological mechanism leading us to cease physical activities that, “because of their high intensity, extended duration or both, may compromise the cardiovascular and/or musculoskeletal systems”.
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