Impact of Caffeine on Athletic Performance of Cyclists

Cycling is a very intense sport that can drain even the most energetic person. On average, a professional rider covers about 240 kilometers in one day of competition. Some cycling events such as the Tour de France can last up to three weeks with circuit lengths varying between 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers.

Велогонка Le Tour de France
Le Tour de France / sourse

Given the intensity and demand of the sport, it is not  surprising that athletes often resort to doping to become more superior in competition. Cyclists focus on improving output power, energy consumption, and oxygen consumption with the altitude and mileage changes of races.

In the past, some cyclists used pseudoephedrine, a drug that gave a significant advantage to its users prompting the Executive Committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2010 to include it on the list of prohibited drugs.

Another common stimulant is caffeine.

Химическая формула кофеина
Сhemical formula of caffeine / sourse

It is used to improve performance and is considered a legal substance that athletes can use. But how does regular caffeine intake affect workout performance?

Caffeine can come in many forms such as in pills, chewing gums, energy drinks, in coffee, or in mouthwash. A research done by Brockport College found that by avoiding caffeine for four days, sensitivity to caffeine intake allowed users to have a more positive effect when ingested again. 

Cyclists typically take caffeine in supplements although coffee and caffeinated gum have also shown to have similar beneficial effects. It was also found that cyclists who took caffeine an hour before competition achieved the best results on average. This was true for both men and women in the study.

Велосипедист и кофе
Сyclist and coffee /sourse

When asked about caffeine intake, Jordanian professional triathlete Firas Al-Hmood had this to say: “If you take it daily, at a specific time, it will not give you the boost you want if you are getting it from coffee. For example, if you wake up in the morning, have a cup of espresso or an americano, and don’t go for a ride right away, you won’t get the desired effect. But when you ride and stop for coffee, especially on long rides, it gives you a good boost. On the other hand, when you drink it daily and then stop, you will get an incredible boost the next time you drink coffee. It’s incredible and you really feel it. This is all based on my experience.”

Фираз пьёт кофе перед велопоездкой
Firaz drinks coffee before the bike ride

Therefore, it seems that if cyclists can expand their knowledge on ergogenic effects of caffeine, they will be able to take their performance to the next level in this highly competitive sport.

Edited by Aldo Tong

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