Athletes and Caffeine

Caffeine may be considered the most popular drug in the word because it is found in so many products that are commonly used in the daily lives of people of all ages. However, because of its stimulant properties, there has been an increase in recent years in the amount of products marketed to young people.

Energy drink products such as Rockstar and Monster can be seen on a regular basis on high school and college campuses. Because these drinks are directly marketed to young people and athletes, athletes need to understand how the caffeine in these drinks can affect their bodies and how much is safe to consume.

Athletes need to be educated to look at the amount of caffeine in products, understand the physiological effects of caffeine as well as the possible adverse effects of caffeine.

Amount of Caffeine in Products

There are websites available (Energy Fiend) that athletes can use to find the amount of caffeine in specific products. Because caffeine is a banned substance, knowing the amount consumed is critical for athletes.

When looking for the amount of caffeine in products, the athletes need to be diligent in also looking for the amount of ounces consumed.

A typical eight ounce instant cup of coffee will have 55-60 mg of caffeine.

But all coffees are not created equal. An eight ounce cup of brewed coffee will contain 100-110 mg of caffeine. The smallest cup of regular coffee purchased at Starbucks is a 12 ounce “Tall” and can contain up to 260 mg of caffeine. A 16 ounce cup of regular Starbucks coffee can contain up to 330 mg of caffeine.

How Caffeine Effects the Body

According to Houglum, J., Harrelson, G., and Leaver-Dunn, D., (Principles of Pharmacology for Athletic Trainers, 2005) there may be three ways in which caffeine can affect the performance of an athlete.

The first is that caffeine may provide improved endurance by increasing stored fat availability (for use as energy) and conserving glucose stores. If this is correct, athletes may be able to last longer in their activity before they get fatigued.

Second, the authors report that caffeine may increase the strength of a muscle contraction through the stimulation of specific ions within the muscle.

Last, and probably the reason most people use caffeine products, is that caffeine has a direct effect on the central nervous system as a stimulant. Caffeine can increase alertness, increase motor unit recruitment, and alter the perception of fatigue.

Adverse Effects of Caffeine

A number of adverse effects have been documented with the intake of caffeine including:

  • anxiety
  • jitters
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • diuresis
  • gastrointestinal distress

For an athlete, one of the major concerns is the diuretic effect of caffeine because it has the potential to cause dehydration, which could lead to heat illness. Higher doses could also cause cardiac arrhythmias and hallucinations.

Caffeine as a Banned Substance

Caffeine is on the list of banned substances for the NCAA. The fact that athletes need to be aware of is that caffeine is banned if the concentration in the urine exceeds 15 micrograms per milliliter.

According to Houglum, J., Harrelson, G., and Leaver-Dunn, D., (Principles of Pharmacology for Athletic Trainers, 2005), ingesting 9 mg/kg can result in a positive urine test.

This means that the amount of caffeine ingestion that would be safe is related to the amount of body mass of the individual. An athlete weighing 50 kg (110 pounds) could test positive with as little as 450mg of caffeine or two 12 ounce Starbucks coffees (520 mg of caffeine). An athlete weighing 85 kg (187 pounds) could test positive with 765mg of caffeine or two 16 ounce Starbucks coffees (660 mg of caffeine) and one 16 ounce Rockstar (160mg).

Athletes who drink energy drinks need to also be aware that most energy drinks contain two servings per can which doubles the amount of caffeine on the label.

Caution with Caffeine

It is well documented that habitual use of caffeine can place an individual at risk for a number of disorders including anxiety, sleep disorders, dependence, and withdrawal (severe headaches when caffeine is not consumed because the body develops a dependence on the stimulant).

Because of the number of physiological effects of caffeine, intake of caffeine should be in moderation and carefully controlled to maximize health and reduce potential side effects.
Suite 101 Terry Zeigler Jan 22, 2010


Posted on January 22, 2010, in Sports Gaming. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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