As runners we are usually looking for an edge. Whether you are training for your first half marathon or marathon or are a seasoned veteran, runners usually want to feel great or get faster during the race. You may have wondered if coffee (caffeine) can enhance your performance.
Caffeine (in coffee or otherwise) can improve performance. Hundreds of studies have shown that consuming caffeine before a physical challenge likely helps subjects go farther and faster than when they go without it. This effect holds true in studies of both endurance athletes and sprinters.
However, timing is key! The best time to have caffeine for a little boost may be an hour before your event begins. Give it a try during a few training sessions. The decision to try it is up to you. The little boost mentioned above could be seconds off your 10k or up to a minute or two off your marathon. However, there is no promise to a significant reduction in your race time.
Also, it is possible to have too much caffeine. As with any nutritional supplement, a little may help, but moderation is key. The recommended range found most often was three to six milligrams (mg) of caffeine per kilogram (kg) of body weight. Start at the lower range if caffeine is new to you. If you are a routine user of caffeine, a higher amount may be needed.
To calculate the right amount of caffeine for a 150-pound runner, use the following equation:
150 divided by 2.2 = 68 kg
68 kg x 3 = 204 mg of caffeine (low end)
68 kg x 6 = 408 mg of caffeine (high end)
This range of 204 to 408 mg of caffeine is about 12 to 17 ounces of drip brewed coffee.
Many runners may choose to use caffeine pills instead of coffee. Remember to adhere to the recommended amounts based on your individual weight. If you choose to have caffeine on race day, remember that you will already be nervous and have the jitters. Don’t add too much caffeine!
In preparation for race day, remember to:
- Increase fluid intake a week prior to the race
- Make sure to get seven to eight hours of sleep the week before the race
- Reduce your training drastically the week before, so you are well rested
Finally, interestingly enough, coffee hasn't been proven to dehydrate you. If you are used to a cup of "joe" to get your day off to a good start, it shouldn't be a problem for you, even on race day.
We encourage you to check out these websites for more information:
RunnersWorld.com: 8 Things Runners Should Know About Coffee
Active.com: The Caffeinated Runner