Coffee consumption and sports performance – Part 3

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This is the third of three blog posts on the topic of coffee consumption and sports performance, concentrating on coffee, sports performance and fluid balance. Coffee and Health also houses current scientific information on a wide range of other coffee-related topics.

Guidelines on the optimal amount and types of fluid to consume to achieve fluid balance are widespread, though it is typically recommended that we drink 2 litres of fluid a day, mostly as water.

Some specific recommendations suggest limiting consumption of caffeinated beverages, including coffee, as it may negatively impact overall fluid balance. Interestingly, existing scientific evidence does not support this ‘common knowledge’ recommendation on coffee and more research is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.

No evidence of any detrimental effects of caffeine on exercise performance

A 2002 review of the literature on caffeine and fluid balance during exercise concluded that a daily intake of 300mg of caffeine (the amount found in approximately 3 regular cups of coffee) may act as a mild, short-term diuretic. This effect is similar to that of water, with no significant effect on overall fluid balance. Additionally, the authors found no evidence for any detrimental effects of caffeine on hydration during exercise in hot climates. They concluded that advice to avoid caffeinated beverages before, and during, exercise are not supported.

A more recent survey found no effect of moderate levels of caffeine on dehydration, either at rest or during exercise, and suggests that similar conclusions can be drawn for caffeine’s long-term effects.

In an interview, available to view here, Dr Andrew Blannin from the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, at the University of Birmingham in the UK explains:

“There is no evidence of any significant detrimental effect of moderate caffeine consumption on sports performance, nor is there any evidence that caffeine consumption adversely effects hydration status or ability to regulate body temperature during exercise.”

Caffeine beneficial in endurance exercise

The evidence shows that caffeine ingestion in moderate quantities is beneficial for sports performance for endurance athletes. Also, a 2010 review does not support claims that caffeine induces urine production during exercise.

Dr Andrew Blannin states:

“In 2011, EFSA concluded that caffeine was indeed an ergogenic aid and that’s because it’s been shown to improve endurance performance, endurance capacity and ratings of perceived exertion…Performance benefits can be seen with moderate intakes of coffee, so 3mg per kg of body weight which is equivalent to 2-3 regular cups of coffee.”

Caffeine does not adversely affect temperature regulation

Several factors can reduce our tolerance for heat during exercise in hot environments. Reviews of the effects of caffeine show no evidence that caffeine leads to chronic dehydration, or negatively affects temperature regulation, in hot environments.

Dr Andrew Blannin states:

“Factors such as temperature, humidity and exercise levels will affect our fluid requirements. Although we are working on a large scale study to provide conclusive evidence, the majority of the literature suggests that moderate consumption of coffee, about 3-4 cups of coffee a day, can contribute to our daily fluid requirements.”

For more information on coffee and sports performance, coffee and fluid balance and to view reference materials, click here.

Also, to see Dr Andrew Blannin discuss the latest research on the relationship between coffee consumption; sports performance and fluid balance with Dr Trisha Macnair, hospital physician and health journalist view our vodcast here.

This information is intended for Healthcare professional audiences.
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