Dietician Feb / March 2020: High Performance Brew

Black Gold – if anything is the perfect example of my performance nutrition beliefs, it is coffee, proof of the power of food. And we are not talking bulletproof nonsense here.

The active ingredient caffeine is well researched in the context of sport and exercise nutrition. There are two possible actions that athletes may benefit from when consuming caffeine, the first being an increased capacity to exercise through delayed fatigue or lowered perception of effort and the second an enhanced
recovery of muscle glycogen (fuel) in certain instances. The magic here is that all of this is possible with levels typically found in coffee, no need for risky supplements.

The benefits seem to occur at around 2-3 mg/kg of body weight, 150-200 mg depending on your size. While the caffeine content of your favourite brew can vary significantly you would find average caffeine
content of a double espresso or Americano to be 100-200 mg. A couple considerations when using coffee as your pre-workout of choice include the type of bean, the roast and how it is brewed. The robusta bean is
higher in caffeine, almost double that of the typically used arabica so finding a blend with more robusta will give you more bang for your buck. We have sourced a unique blend of beans that we use in The Performance Kitchen to match this. A lighter roast will also provide more caffeine per scoop and the longer the brew time the more caffeine one can extract. My favourite stove top moka pot is up there with the best for squeezing out every ounce of performance enhancement along with drip/percolator style coffee. An interesting study recently showed that even the same blend and same coffee at the same Starbucks showed varying levels of caffeine from one day to the next however so the caveat to food based ergogenic aids is the natural fluctuations you may get in dosing.

Your daily grind is best used before heavy workouts, interval sessions or fasted training rides when the effort might be more than is comfortable. In prolonged stages and events we would normally look to repeat caffeine intake via gum, gels or tabs 10-20 minutes before an effort to allow time to get to work. The fastest absorption is through the mouth so chewing gum works really well. In some of our teams we use a
caffeine chewing gum as a half time strategy to good effect.

As with most nutritional strategies, these strategies unfortunately don’t work for everyone. Your genetics go a long way to determining your sensitivity to caffeine and your response can vary from improved performance, to no effect or in a small number of athletes a small inhibition of performance. The take-home point here would be trialling the use of caffeine around training and evaluating how you feel.
Sensitive individuals might feel an effect from the small doses in gels or coke (30-50 mg) but most typically larger doses as mentioned earlier would be needed.

Drink / Food Serving Size Caffeine Content
Filter Coffee 250ml 120-200mg
Espresso 30ml 60-100mg
Instant Coffee 250ml 60-100ml
Decaf Coffee 250ml 6-10ml
Tea 250ml 40-60mg
Coke 300ml 30mg
Caffeinated Energy Drink 250ml 80mg
Dark Chocolate 30g 60-100mg
Caffeinated Energy Gels 35g 40-50mg
Caffeinated Chewing Gum 10g 100mg
Cocoa Powder 5g 12mg

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