Coffee consumption and sports performance – Part 2

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This is the second of three blog posts on the topic of coffee consumption and sports performance, concentrating on the potential mechanisms behind the effects of caffeine consumption on sports performance. Coffee and Health also houses current scientific information on a wide range of other coffee-related topics.

Potential mechanisms

Until recently, the ability of caffeine to enhance performance was thought to be due to its effect of increasing levels of circulating free fatty acids in the body. This is because it helps spare muscle glycogen stores as the fatty acids are used for energy. However, several other mechanisms are now being investigated.

Caffeine may increase adrenalin production in endurance sports

Recent research has found that caffeine affects endurance performance via a pathway that leads to an increased production of adrenalin. This then stimulates energy production and improves blood flow to the muscles and the heart. Caffeine may also alter fatigue and influence ratings of exertion, perceived pain and energy levels, all of which are likely to lead to improvements in performance.

Caffeine’s effects on anaerobic exercise still under investigation

A recent review has found that current theories on caffeine do not wholly account for its effect on short-term anaerobic exercise.

As more studies are carried out, it appears that the understanding of mechanisms behind the effects of caffeine on both aerobic and anaerobic exercise seem to be moving in the same direction. Research to date suggests that the adenosine antagonist is the most likely mechanism behind the effects of caffeine. This is a pathway that leads to an increased production of adrenalin, which stimulates energy production and improves blood flow to the muscles and heart.

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