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Coffee & Health
Sports performance

Caffeine Improves Triathlon Performance: A Field Study in Males and Females,

S Potgieter et al, 2018.
International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, published online.
January 19, 2018


The ergogenic effect of caffeine on endurance exercise is commonly accepted. We aimed to elucidate realistically the effect of caffeine on triathlon event performance using a field study design, while allowing investigation into potential mechanisms at play. A double-blind, randomized, crossover, field trial was conducted. Twenty-six triathletes (14 males, 12 females) participated (age: 37.8±10.6 years, habitual caffeine intake: 413±505 mg/day, percentage body fat: 14.5±7.2%, training/week: 12.8±4.5 hours). Microencapsulated caffeine (6 mg/kg body weight) was supplemented 60 minutes pre-trial. Performance data included time to completion (TTC), rating of perceived exertion (RPE) and profile of mood states (POMS). Blood samples taken before, during and post-race were analyzed for cortisol, testosterone and full blood count. Capillary blood lactate concentrations were assessed pre-race, during transitions and 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 minutes after triathlons. Caffeine supplementation resulted in a 3.7% reduction in swim time (33.5±7.0 vs. 34.8±8.1 minutes, p<0.05) and a 1.3% reduction in TTC (149.6±19.8 vs. 151.5±18.6 minutes, p<0.05) for the whole group. Gender differences and individual responses are also presented. Caffeine did not alter RPE significantly, but better performance after caffeine supplementation suggests a central effect resulting in greater overall exercise intensity at the same RPE. Caffeine supplementation was associated with higher post-exercise cortisol levels (665±200 vs. 543±169 nmol/l, p<0.0001) and facilitated greater peak blood lactate accumulation (ANOVA main effect, p<0.05). We recommend that triathlon athletes with relatively low habitual caffeine intake may ingest 6 mg/kg body weight caffeine, 45-60 minutes before the start of Olympic-distance triathlon in order to improve performance.

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