It’s been reported that approx. 75% of athletes use caffeine before competition to gain a host of benefits, such as;
• Reduced perception of effort.
• Reduced perception of pain.
• Enhanced mood and mental alertness.
• Reducing the performance decrease associated with sleep debt.
Mechanistically (yes, this is a full on sciency D2EW), it’s been pretty well researched that caffeine is something called an Adenosine Receptor Antagonist. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for promoting sleep and ‘turning down’ arousal. I.e. bad for performance..
Therefore, caffeine binds to the receptor instead of adenosine to increase arousal, muscle firing rates, and the stimulation of adrenaline to improve performance.
Howevs, there may some new ways that caffeine works (Pickering, 2019)…
1. Caffeine being a bitter tastant.
There are a number of bitter taste receptors in the oral cavity of your mouth and gastrointestinal tract, which are activated by caffeine.
It’s been shown that bitter tastants enhance performance; therefore the presence of caffeine in your mouth before swallowing could be beneficial.
In addition to this, it could explain why some people respond well to caffeine and others don’t… it could be from a person’s ability to taste bitter compounds such as caffeine. I.e. some may need a bigger ‘hit’ in order to get the same taste response.
The sad news, coffee may not have an impact as it just isn’t quite bitter enough.
Interestingly repeated caffeine consumption could reduce the sensation of bitterness, therefore making it less effective – perhaps a reason to withdraw caffeine before competing, followed by reintroduction?
2. Caffeine expectancy.
Simply knowing that you’re going to consume caffeine could directly enhance performance.
This was shown in a study by Beedie et al (2006) when researchers told cyclists that they were given a high dose caffeine supplement or a low dose caffeine supplement – Funnily enough, the higher dose had a better performance boost than the lower dose, despite deceptively been given a placebo and not a caffeine supplement.
Now, this doesn’t really make any difference to you as you’ll still get a performance boost from caffeine regardless…But it’s pretty cool how the body works, right?
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