Caffeine – A Banned Substance

Since the 2000 Olympics, caffeine has been banned by the International Olympic Committee. The level that is banned is approximately 8 cups of coffee.  If the IOC found that much caffeine in your urine, they would assume that you are trying to gain a competitive advantage.

Does Caffeine Really Help?

Research is all over the place, but the majority seem to suggest that caffeine will not benefit athletes in the shorter distances or those with high intensity. But it can improve performance in an endurance event. Runner’s World published an article about a research study that contradicts that claim, as well as a study that supports it!

Personal differences in tolerance to caffeine, metabolism, diet, and others can have an impact on the benefit of caffeine use.  Doctors don’t recommend the use of caffeine to enhance performance. Caffeine is present in much more than coffee and Coke.  Most energy drinks, sports drinks, and energy bars contain some level of caffeine.  Ingested during a race it can also provide a needed boost to help you continue at your desired level of exertion.

How It Works

According to a Rice University professor, “Caffeine mobilizes fat stores and encourages working muscles to use fat as a fuel.  This delays the depletion of muscle glycogen and allows for the prolongation of exercise.”  To optimize this caffeine needs to be ingested early in an event or before-hand.  This prevents the body from switching to glycogen too early.

Caffeine may also impact the brain, making you feel that your level of exertion is lower than it actually is.  This will also allow you to push longer and harder. It may also help keep your muscles relaxed.

Nasty Side Effects

Caffeine does have some bad side effects including:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Stomach Instability
  • Muscle Tightness
  • Muscle Cramping
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • May compound existing heart problems

Tips or Recommendations

  • Ingest Caffeine 3-4 hours before performance
  • Abstain for a few days before event, to improve caffeine effect
  • Make sure you have tested caffeine during training


Do you drink coffee regularly?  Do you use it to “improve your performance”? What do you think about this topic?  Leave a note in the comments section.

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3 thoughts on “Caffeine – A Banned Substance

  1. Blaine Moore

    I avoid caffeine like the plague. Since completely eliminating it almost a decade ago, I have slept better, been healthier, and kept my stress under control easier.I also removed the worst catalyst that caused migraines; going blind for 2 weeks is enough of a wake up call to consider a small change in diet.I consider caffeine to be worse than alcohol or tobacco.


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