Sunday, July 18, 2010

Substance review: Caffeine part III

Part III and the final post in the caffeine substance review, click for Part I and Part II.

If caffeine is to be used as a cognitive sports enhancement supplement then it should be used infrequently and for competition events only. Furthermore it should be used in specific relationship to the type of sport. The studies examined all used significant dosages of caffeine, so while the occasional coffee wont hurt you routine I would be careful of multiple cups and in supplementing any existing casual habit with a specific supplement.

In all situations caffeine should be avoided during training sessions. It has been shown to not improve intentional learning and any gains from being able to push harder will only build up tolerance come game time or race day.

If you participate in a sport where your primary goal is power without endurance (e.g a lineman, power lifter or sprinter) you should probably limit caffeine use altogether. You will not benefit as greatly from creatine's endurance use while if you use a creatine supplement then the torque you gain will be lost.

If your role has features that are more comprised of intermittent sprints or flat out endurance (say midfielder, wide receiver or a mixed martial artist who goes the distance) then you will find caffeine to be a benefit. It will improve your working memory and reaction speed allowing you to better execute the techniques and plays you have trained for, while decreasing any feelings of fatigue you are experiencing. Be wary though, while in low doses caffeine elevates mood, the dosages used in the studies could be significant enough to make you jittery and on edge.

As a general supplement to enhance cognition in sports it seems limited in application due to lack of effect in actual learning, the possibility of negating existing supplements effectiveness and the side-effects of the large dosages required to see significant effects.

What to watch out for
While you should be able to eat chocolate and drink green tea as per normal you should monitor how much caffeine you intake as part of your coffee, tea, soda and energy drink consumption habits. In addition if your existing diet or supplements contain any of the following, then they contain caffeine and need to be considered in light of the above:

  • Guarana (sometimes labelled as Pullinia capana)
  • Kola nut
  • Yerba mate
  • Yaupon Holly
Further reading:

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