The caffeine in coffee, soda, or an energy drink, can help when you’re trying to wake up in the morning or beat an afternoon slump. If you’re a runner, it turns out that drinking coffee or using another substance with a caffeine fatigue beater can also help you train longer and harder. Recent studies have found that the compound boosts performance and endurance by up to 5 percent.
Does Caffeine Dehydrate Athletes?
You might recall a time when athletes were advised against using caffeine because of the worry of dehydration. As regular energy beverage drinkers know, java can make you visit the restroom more often. Caffeine is a diuretic, and it can make you urinate more frequently. However, studies have found that effect disappears when you’re active. Researchers aren’t sure why activity would suppress caffeine’s tendency to make you need to go to the bathroom, but it appears that as long as you’re running, caffeine won’t send you looking for the nearest bathroom any sooner than any other liquid.
Do Pro Athletes Really Use Caffeine?
Professional athletes have to be careful about the ingredients in their supplements. Many substances that boost performance are banned, and athletes are tested regularly to catch anyone who’s trying to get an unfair edge. However, while caffeine has been shown to boost a runner’s endurance, it’s completely legal in professional competitions (the NCAA has a cap on caffeine amounts). In fact, runner and Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah wrote in his autobiography that he drinks coffee about 20 minutes before a competition. He even says he goes into races feeling a “massive caffeine high.”
How Does Caffeine Improve Endurance?
Caffeine may fool your brain into thinking you’re not as tired as you are. The compound is a stimulant that works mainly by affecting your perceptions. It turns out that your brain always has your body’s back. When your body starts getting low on fuel, or begins to heat up from exercise, it starts sending SOS messages to your brain. After getting those signals, your brain tells your body to slow down and rest. But here’s the rub: Your brain tends to be over protective and urges your body to slow well in advance of any physical danger. Researchers theorize that caffeine suppresses your perceptions of fatigue and pain, allowing you to run harder for longer.
If you’re looking for a way to train or race harder, try using caffeine before or during a run. Using caffeinated gels, chews, or drinks will give you an energy boost and may even help you get a new personal best.