Caffeine: Could Less Be More?

Caffeine: Could Less Be More?

For those of you who’d like to take advantage of caffeine but keep your caffeine intake as low as possible, there’s some excellent news about dosage because more recent studies suggests that unless your event is very short, less is more.

In a study on sixteen experienced cyclists, the subjects were asked to do three experimental protocols on three separate occasions. Each protocol involved completing a fixed amount of work equivalent to 75% of peak sustainable power output for 60 minutes.

Two cups of cofee_caffeine dose
A 6mg/kg dose of caffeine is no more effective at boosting performance than a 3mg/kg dose.

Ninety minutes before each test, the cyclists were given one of the following:

  • 3mg of caffeine per kilo of body mass.
  • 6mg of caffeine per kilo of body mass.
  • No caffeine (the placebo or control protocol).

The researchers then measured the times the cyclists needed to complete their work under each protocol. It’s not very surprising that when the cyclists took either 3mg or 6mg of caffeine per kg, their performance was considerably improved in comparison with no caffeine.

However, what was interesting was that the 6mg/kg dose was no more effective at increasing performance than the 3mg/kg dose. Indeed, the results showed a very slight trend towards better performance in the 3mg/kg trial, where the subjects completed their trial about 4% faster than when taking no caffeine. This compares with a 3% faster time when they took 6mg/kg, which is double the caffeine dose.

In a larger study with more participants, it might have been possible to prove definitively that a 6mg/kg dose resulted in significantly worse performance than a 3mg/kg dose.

Regardless of this however these outcomes undoubtedly confirmed that consuming 6mg caffeine per kilo of body mass gave absolutely no further performance gains whatsoever over a 3mg/kg dose. And this is interesting because until recently, many experts have recommended caffeine doses of about 6mg per hour for events lasting about an hour. But according to the latest findings, it’s proven that your sport performance will be the same or even better by consuming half that dose, i.e. 3mg/kg.

What is recommended?

There are only few confirmed performance enhancers out there but caffeine is most definitely one of them. If your event lasts more than 30 minutes, you will improve your performance by taking caffeine supplements, however the gains are even greater during event(s) lasting an hour or longer.

Even though much of the early research recommended doses of 6 or even 9mg/kg, more recent studies suggests that 3mg/kg is ample for the majority of endurance athletes and may even produce greater performance gains than higher doses.

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Written by Camille Bennett

Camille Bennett is our nutrition expert interested in fitness diet and doesn’t run out of delicious ideas for healthy and nutritional meals.


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