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Does caffeine improve athletic performance?

April 12, 2018

It is found in coffee, energy drinks, tea and even some painkillers. The massive daily consumption of most adult individuals makes caffeine an “addiction” that is able to give different effects on the nervous system and on the threshold of attention. However, as reported by the results published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, not all the effects of a constant intake of caffeine seem to be positive. We talk about this topic with Daniela Lucini, head of the section for Exercise Medicine at Humanitas.


Coffee, tea and sports performance: yes but with moderation


Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, reducing fatigue and drowsiness. It can also help exercise and research has shown that it can improve endurance and increase muscle strength. It is therefore not surprising that athletes who want to improve their performance also use caffeine as an energizer. However, a new study carried out by the School of Health and Human Performance at Dublin City University in Ireland suggests that consuming caffeine regularly can desensitize athletes to the effects of performance enhancement, creating a kind of habituation.


“The fact that caffeine can increase performance does not mean that caffeine has health benefits – says Professor Lucini, who therefore calls for a different perspective on the study. In itself, drinking coffee is neither good nor bad: it depends on how the individual responds to this substance and its exciting properties”.


For some, taking up to 3 coffees a day is no problem and can therefore be done without danger to health. In other subjects, however, an excessive dose of caffeine increases the heartbeat or causes sympathetic hyperactivity, making it difficult to fall asleep.


“In those subjects where the consumption of caffeine is not recommended there is a green light for coffee – concludes Lucini. I am puzzled, however, about its use to improve sports performance, for which the recommended dosages are not clear at the moment”.

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