Monday, July 30, 2012

Coffee and Swimming

Caffeine is the most commonly consumed ergogenic aide in the world. This natural alkaloid is present in various leaves, fruits and seed. Despite the rise of energy drinks, coffee is still the most frequently consumed caffeinated drink in sports. Caffeine consumption is quite frequent in sports; in fact, it is consumed prior to competition in 7% of elite and international athletes based on doping analysis (Del Coso 2011).

Most studies suggest consuming 3 – 9 mg/kg of body weight for improvement with exercise (Del Coso 2008; Graham 1995; Bruce 2000; Carr 2008; Glaister 2008; Stuart 1998; Goldstein 2010).

The amount one can consume and remain in the legal limit is quite variable. Van der Merwe attempted to determine how much caffeine by serving coffee, tea, and soft drinks in fifteen minutes would be necessary to consume to results in a positive test. He gave athletes up to 10 cups of coffee (1000 mg), but no samples came back greater than 14 mg/liter, three hours after ingestion. He concluded it was impossible to fail the IOC testing on caffeine consumption (current legal limit is 12 mcg/Ml).


The claims of the benefit on exercise are based on three main hypotheses:
Caffeine increases the efficiency for the body to burn fat. Using fat instead of glycogen is thought to improve endurance exercise.

Caffeine reduces the rate of glycogen consumption, once again increasing endurance exercise.
Caffeine lowers the rate of perceived exertion, improving all forms of exercise.

Another potential benefit in swimming is the role of caffeine on the respiratory system. Many elite swimmers suffer from asthma. In those with asthma, caffeine functions as a vasodilator (Weinberg 2001).

Despite the large scientific and anecdotal evidence, many coaches are fearful of prescribing coffee or caffeine to a swimmer. One logical reason, it is illegal. Second reason, is they believe it causes dehydration. Lastly, some feel it makes swimmers too anxious behind the blocks.

Despite these coaching concerns, the literature does not support these claims:

Pauluska (2003) said:

"It is relatively safe and has no known negative performance effects, nor does it cause significant dehydration or electrolyte imbalance during exercise."

Gavrieli (2003) determined:

"In conclusion, the usually consumed amount of caffeinated coffee does not have short-term effects on appetite, energy intake, glucose metabolism, and inflammatory markers, but it increases circulating cortisol concentrations in healthy men."

This rise in cortisol, a stress hormone, potentially increases anxiety behind the block, but has not been directly correlated and is likely an individual result.

Green Coffee

Caffeine is present in many forms of food and drink. Some emerging information on weight loss and performance gains in rats consuming green coffee. The added benefit is potentially due to the chologenic acid. It is suggested chologenic acid holds off reactive oxygen species (ROS) contributing to fatigue (Noaves 2012). This early evidence is not fully research, but suggests the many questions still surrounding coffee.


Overall, caffeine seems reasonably safe for ergogenic enhancement. However, different people metabolize caffeine differently; therefore, use and quantity are person dependent. However, this legal ergogenic aide is a potential source of improvement for swimmers.

  1. Del Coso J, Muñoz G, Muñoz-Guerra J: Prevalence of caffeine use in elite athletes following its removal from the World Anti-Doping Agency list of banned substances. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 2011, 36:555–561.
  2. Del Coso J, Estevez E, Mora-Rodriguez R: Caffeine effects on short-term performance during prolonged exercise in the heat. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2008, 40:744–751.
  3. Graham TE, Spriet LL: Metabolic, catecholamine, and exercise performance responses to various doses of caffeine. J Appl Physiol 1995, 78:867–874.
  4. Bruce CR, Anderson ME, Fraser SF, Stepto NK, Klein R, Hopkins WG, Hawley JA: Enhancement of 2000-m rowing performance after caffeine ingestion. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000, 32:1958–1963.
  5. Carr A, Dawson B, Schneiker K, Goodman C, Lay B: Effect of caffeine supplementation on repeated sprint running performance. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2008, 48:472–478.
  6. Glaister M, Howatson G, Abraham CS, Lockey RA, Goodwin JE, Foley P, McInnes G: Caffeine supplementation and multiple sprint running performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2008, 40:1835–1840.
  7. Stuart GR, Hopkins WG, Cook C, Cairns SP: Multiple effects of caffeine on simulated high-intensity team-sport performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2005, 37:1998–2005.
  8. Goldstein E, Jacobs PL, Whitehurst M, Penhollow T, Antonio J: Caffeine enhances upper body strength in resistance-trained women. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2010, 7:18.
  9. Paluska SA. Caffeine and exercise. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2003 Aug;2(4):213-9. Review.
  10. J Nutr. 2011 Apr 1;141(4):703-7. Epub 2011 Feb 23. Caffeinated coffee does not acutely affect energy intake, appetite, or inflammation but prevents serum cortisol concentrations from falling in healthy men.
  11. Gavrieli A, Yannakoulia M, Fragopoulou E, Margaritopoulos D, Chamberland JP, Kaisari P, Kavouras SA, Mantzoros CS.
  12. Novaes RD, Gonçalves RV, Peluzio Mdo C, Natali AJ, Maldonado IR. 3,4-dihydroxycinnamic Acid attenuates the fatigue and improves exercise tolerance in rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2012 May 23;76(5):1025-7.

1 comment:

  1. The best part of being a coach who fills relay spots for my club is that I have access to all the free coffee in the hospitality room.