Many athletes look for ways to improve their performance, no matter what type of sport they are involved in. However, many drugs are illegal due to their effects on health, and using them even occasionally can get you permanently banned from competition. Many people want to know if it’s legal to use caffeine in sports. The answer is yes, it is legal and can be beneficial for athletes! If you are involved in sports, keep reading as we look at the advantages and disadvantages of caffeine for athletes.
How Caffeine Works
When we consume coffee, tea, or another item containing caffeine, our body absorbs it quickly into the bloodstream, and it will reach a peak 30–120 minutes later. Once in the bloodstream, you will start to notice its effects, many of which can benefit an athlete.
Health Benefits of Moderate Use of Caffeine by Athletes
Improved Nervous System Performance
Caffeine helps activate parts of your brain that work to keep you more focused and alert. If your sport requires split-second decisions or reactions, caffeine can greatly improve your performance.
Caffeine also increases your body’s production of epinephrine, which is the hormone that creates the fight-or-flight response. It can help improve the athlete’s ability to deal with a tough situation and may even give them the energy to come back from behind.
Caffeine can help increase your metabolism, which will enable you to burn more calories. Caffeine may even suppress your appetite, so you eat less. Athletes can use caffeine to help them lose weight to make the team or prepare for a weigh-in. Weight gain is a serious issue for many athletes, and caffeine may be able to help you keep it under control.
One special chemical that caffeine helps your body release is endorphins. These improve your feeling of well-being, which can help make it easier to get to your workout or practice and help you feel better when you are finished.
One way that caffeine can help athletes is through muscle performance. Some people believe that the improved performance of the nervous system helps improve the performance of the muscular system too, but more studies are needed.
Recommended Caffeine Intake for Athletes
Some studies found that .8–1.6-mg of caffeine per pound of body weight can modestly improve endurance. Another study showed that cyclists who consumed 200 mg of caffeine could complete their race faster than cyclists that drank 100 mg. These studies also show that it doesn’t matter how the caffeine is consumed. However, a few studies showed no real improvement with higher levels of caffeine.
How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?
Most experts recommend everyone, including athletes, keep their caffeine intake below 400 mg per day. Anything more can lead to health issues that include nervousness, restlessness, increased heart rate, difficulty sleeping, heart problems, and even kidney stones.
Consuming caffeine has several benefits for athletes. It can help improve focus, leading to quicker reflexes. It can help control weight and can even help the athlete achieve a better emotional state. Only about half the daily allowance is required to see the best results, so drinking more than 400 mg per day is unnecessary. Since too much caffeine can lead to health issues, some sporting leagues are considering limiting caffeine intake.
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