Prof.Ron Maughan

Why? Caffeine is a drug that is present in many food sources. Caffeine is a stimulant that is used by students to be alert in exams and it is used by many people to wake up in the morning. In fact, caffeine is the most used drug worldwide. Caffeine improves alertness and decision making (especially in complex tasks) and allows you to be more focused (less affected by distractions). Caffeine has been shown to improve endurance performance. Large doses of caffeine can raise an athletes metabolic rate, body temperature, blood pressure and blood sugar level. For this reason caffeine is sometimes used to achieve weight loss in combination with reduced energy intake and aerobic training.

What? Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, some soft drinks, some over-the-counter cough/cold and pain-relieving medication, and in some herbal/nutritional supplements. Some energy drinks also contain caffeine or guarana. Guarana is frequently found in herbal or nutritional supplements and is reported to contain up to 5% caffeine whereas other souces of caffeine, such as coffee tea and chocolate, contain between 1-4% caffeine.

Why not? Caffeine is a stimulant but has been removed from the IAAF banned list. The amount of caffeine that an athlete would have to consume to return a positive test varies from person to person.The normal ingestion of products containing caffeine should not cause this limit to be exceeded (1-2 cups of coffee, 2-3 cups of tea, 2 cans of Red Bull),but everyone should be aware that it could cause a positive result. Factors such as weight, body size, metabolic rate, hydration and what you have already eaten recently will affect the level of caffeine in the body. At high doses, caffeine can cause nausea, diarrhoea, insomnia, trembling, headaches, and nervousness.

How? Small amounts of caffeine (as little as 60 milligrammes or 1 cup of coffee) have been shown to have effects on decision making, alertness and reaction time and amounts of 2-3milligrammes per kilogramme body weight have been shown to enhance endurance performance. Higher doses of caffeine  (more than 5 milligrammes per kilogramme body weight) do not seem to have larger effects on performance than smaller dosages, so it is not worth the risk of unwanted effects. You should also be aware that the amount of caffeine in each product could vary (see below)

When?  It takes about 1 hour before caffeine reaches its maximum concentration in the blood. Therefore it is recommended to consume caffeine approximately 1 hour before the event. However, caffeine may already have effects 5-10 min after ingestion.

Caffeine in products:

Many foods and drinks contain small amounts of caffeine, but for a 70kg athlete, you will get about 3mg/kg from the following:

  • 2-3 cups of coffee.
  • 5-6 cups of tea.
  • 4-6 cans of cola.
  • 3 cans of (some) Energy drinks.
  • 4 Pro Plus tablets.
  • 2 No Doze tablets

Athletes who weigh more or less than 70 kg should adjust accordingly. Remember to take plenty of fluids.


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