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Caffeine and sports performance

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Athletes are among the groups of people who are interested in the effects of caffeine on endurance and exercise capacity. Although many studies have investigated the effect of caffeine ingestion on exercise, not all are suited to draw conclusions regarding caffeine and sports performance. Characteristics of studies that can better explore the issues of athletes include the use of well-trained subjects, conditions that reflect actual practices in sport, and exercise protocols that simulate real-life events. There is a scarcity of field-based studies and investigations involving elite performers. Researchers are encouraged to use statistical analyses that consider the magnitude of changes, and to establish whether these are meaningful to the outcome of sport. The available literature that follows such guidelines suggests that performance benefits can be seen with moderate amounts (~3 mg·kg-1 body mass) of caffeine. Furthermore, these benefits are likely to occur across a range of sports, including endurance events, stop-and-go events (e.g., team and racquet sports), and sports involving sustained high-intensity activity lasting from 1-60 min (e.g., swimming, rowing, and middle and distance running races). The direct effects on single events involving strength and power, such as lifts, throws, and sprints, are unclear. Further studies are needed to better elucidate the range of protocols (timing and amount of doses) that produce benefits and the range of sports to which these may apply. Individual responses, the politics of sport, and the effects of caffeine on other goals, such as sleep, hydration, and refuelling, also need to be considered.

Les athlètes font partie des gens concernés par les effets de la caféine sur l’endurance et la capacité physique. Même si de nombreuses études ont porté sur les effets de la consommation de la caféine sur l’exercice physique, elles ne permettent pas toutes de tirer des conclusions au sujet des effets de la caféine sur la performance sportive. Pour analyser de tels effets, il faut des études incluant des sujets bien entraînés, des conditions reflétant les pratiques sportives en cours et des protocoles expérimentaux simulant des conditions réelles. Il y a très peu d’études réalisées sur le terrain qui incluent des athlètes d’élite. On invite les chercheurs à utiliser des outils statistiques mesurant l’importance des variations notamment sur le plan de la pertinence dans la pratique sportive. Les études scientifiques qui prennent en compte ces directives rapportent qu’une quantité modérée de café (~3 mg·kg-1 de masse corporelle) suscite des gains sur le plan de la performance. De plus, ces gains devraient se manifester dans un large spectre d’activités sportives dont les activités d’endurance, les activités constituées d’arrêts et de départs tels les sports d’équipe et de raquette et les activités demandant une forte intensité soutenue de 1 min à 60 min comme la natation, l’aviron, la course de demi-fond et de fond. Les effets directs de la consommation de caféine dans les activités de force et de puissance tels les levers, les lancers et les sprints ne sont pas bien établis. Il faut faire d’autres études pour bien déterminer les variétés de protocoles admissibles (moment de l’année, quantité consommée) qui suscitent des gains et qui identifient les sports pouvant en bénéficier. Il faut aussi faire d’autres études sur les réponses individuelles, les politiques du sport et sur les effets de la caféine sur d’autres facteurs tels le sommeil, l’hydratation et la recharge d’énergie.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2008

More about this publication?
  • This bimonthly journal has a 30-year history of publishing, first as the Canadian Journal of Sport Sciences, and later as the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology. It publishes original research articles, reviews, and commentaries, focussing on the application of physiology, nutrition, and metabolism to the study of human health, physical activity, and fitness. The published research, reviews, and symposia will be of interest to exercise physiologists, physical fitness and exercise rehabilitation specialists, public health and health care professionals, as well as basic and applied physiologists, nutritionists, and biochemists.
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