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 Can Caffeine Help Marathon Runners?
Submitted by Bricks :: Fri Dec 10, 2004 6:57 am
Caffeine might seem to be an ideal stimulant for endurance athletes, providing a safe and easy way to help them exercise harder and longer. However, opinions about caffeine use among sports scientists and elite athletes is not all positive. Scripps Howard recently ran a story on the effects of caffeine for athletes. One possibility: the benefits may be mostly in your head.

Sports scientists point to the ability of caffeine to stimulate the central nervous system and mobilize fatty acids for energy. Studies have shown that moderate caffeine intake before exercise does generally increase performance, but the exact mechanism is under debate. Fatty acids are not a major source of energy for endurance athletes, so the boost may be primarily psychological. Athletes feel more alert and vigorous.

Some elite athletes such as Marla Runyan aren't convinced of caffeine's value, claiming that the dehydration caused by caffeine use will far outweigh any possible benefit. While most scientists believe that moderate caffeine use does not have a significant dehydrating effect, the athletes disagree. Explains Runyan, "Being dehydrated is far more of a disadvantage than the mental awareness coffee might give you." They believe carbohydrate-rich sports drinks like Gatorade provide more benefit.

Caffeine was actually a banned substance monitored by the World Anti-Doping Agency until just this year. The maximum allowable level was roughly equivalent to 6 - 8 cups of coffee-- high enough that positive test results were infrequent. WADA will now continue testing for caffeine, but only for research purposes.


Joined: 08 Dec 2004
Posts: 33

Re: Can Caffeine Help Marathon Runners? Posted: Mon Dec 13, 2004 1:28 pm 

That's interesting considering how many Gu/Gel products contain caffeine. It just goes to show that you shouldn't trust the people who are trying to sell you products... especially addictive products. Has anyone ever gotten addicted to Gu?


Joined: 08 Dec 2004
Posts: 10

Re: Can Caffeine Help Marathon Runners? Posted: Mon Dec 13, 2004 1:43 pm 

i think the amount of caffeine in a gu (even in the double caffeine tangerine power gel - my personal favorite) is well below what you get in a single cup of coffee or a coke. (looking at their website, gu says it's equivalent to 1/5 cup of coffee).
on a tangential note, a couple of years ago we had a triathlon training buddy whose ironman race plan was to use gu's as his primary source of calories. (instead of powerbars or a high-calorie drink). those suckers only have ~100 calories in them. so he was planning on having something like 24 gus over the course of the day. his bike looked like a rose bowl float with them taped all over the place. the photos were hiliarious. he finished but had to be coaxed out of several port-a-potties along the run course by his friends who were pacing him to the end.
our coach didn't know of this plan beforehand, but said something interesting about it afterwards: consider executing your race plan during a regular work day. if you don't think you can take in 24 gus while sitting at work, there's no way you can do it while racing an ironman.

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