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Article: How to use caffeine to ride faster

Cafeïne gebruiken om sneller te rijden
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How to use caffeine to ride faster

Going faster is what drives athletes. This takes discipline, pushing yourself on every ride. Various supplements can help give you a helping hand. In this blog we take a look at how caffeine can help you go faster on your next ride.

Performance

Riding faster means delivering more power which, in turn, demands more oxygen. While a sprint can temportarily increase your speed it is, of course, better to be able toe maintain a higher speed. Caffeine can contribute to this. Caffeine has been shown to improve endurance by 2–4% across dozens of studies using doses of 3–6 mg/kg body mass. This effect is an average but varies between people so will be greater for some and may even be detrimental to performance in others. A general rule of thumb is that 
the better you are able to dispose of caffeine the greater the performance benefit you will experience. Therefore, be cautious if you do not tolerate caffeine well.

Other benefits

As well as supporting physical performance caffeine can also offer some benefits to mental performance. Studies have shown benefits in protecting against depression and helping learning and memory, for example. It may also help with reaction times if taken 30 minutes before a task. On top of this caffeine is connected with a neuroprotective effect if used moderately over a long period.

How caffeine works

These benefits from using caffeine are delivered by several known mechanisms that work on the central nervous system. It reduces tiredness by temporarily blocking the brain's adenosine receptors from receiving adenosine, a way that your body signals fatigue. This also means that once the caffeine is disposed of there will be excessive adenosine in circulation which means potentially more difficulty in sleeping. 

Caffeine drives behaviour by acting as a reinforcer of behaviour, it “rewards” a behaviour by being associated with it. This was discovered by observing how plants use caffeine to encourage pollinating insects to return. Using caffeine at the same time as a behaviour that you want to habitualise makes use of this characteristic.

Caffeine also helps metabolism of carbohydrates and fats and may also enhance muscle glycogen resynthesis (recovery) when combined with carbohydrate.

Using caffeine

First determine how well you can metabolise caffeine. If you do not have a genetic test result then look for signs that you easily become anxious or have seriously impacted sleep when taking caffeine. If you are a poor metaboliser of caffeine it is less likely to be helpful to you and you will be more susceptible to side effects.

Aim for doses of doses of 3 mg/kg body mass, about 200mg for a 70kg adult. This is equivalent to two large coffees. Take caffeine 15 to 60 minutes before exercise, or during longer events.

Leverage caffeine to help reinforce a behaviour by taking it when doing desired behaviour, such as a training session. Your body will begin to associate the caffeine with the behaviour and this will help habitualise the behaviour.

Cycle caffeine use for maximal benefit because its ergogenic effects fade with regular use. Reduce use use for a while in the weeks before a competition or big event, for example, then increase again in the event.

Sources:

Central nervous system effects of caffeine and adenosine on fatigue
J Mark Davis et al, Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol
, February 2003
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12399249/

Caffeine in Floral Nectar Enhances a Pollinator's Memory of Reward
G. A. WRIGHT et al Science , 8 Mar 2013
https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.1228806

Time course of tolerance to the performance benefits of caffeine,
Beatriz et al, PLOS One January 23, 2019
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0210275

Shen JG, Brooks MB, Cincotta J, Manjourides JD. Establishing a relationship between the effect of caffeine and duration of endurance athletic time trial events: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sci Med Sport. 2018.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30170953/

International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance
Nanci S. Guest, et al Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2021
https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-020-00383-4