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It is widely accepted that any effects of coffee consumption on sports performance are linked to the caffeine in coffee. Most of the published work on exercise performance focuses on the effects of caffeine, rather than coffee itself.
Caffeine is widely understood to be an ergogenic aid i.e. a substance that improves the capacity to do work or exercise. In 1978, Costill and his co-workers were the first to show that 330mg of caffeine administered an hour before exercise at 80% of maximal oxygen consumption on a bicycle ergometer increased time to exhaustion.7 Research suggests that performance benefits can be seen with more moderate amounts of caffeine (around 3mg/kg body weight, or 200-300mg caffeine) across a range of sports, including endurance events, stop-and-go events such as team and racquet sports and sustained high-intensity activity such as swimming and rowing.1
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its Scientific Opinion in 2015 on the Safety of Caffeine concluding that ‘single doses of caffeine up to 200mg (about 3mg/kg bw) from all sources do not raise safety concerns for the general adult population, even if consumed less than two hours prior to intense physical exercise under normal environmental conditions’.6
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