Published on Enhanced Fitness and Performance (http://enhancedfp.com)

Caffeine And Performance- Official ACSM Statement Part II

By DMorgan
Created 09/10/2013 - 1:30pm
Caffeine Dose.
Caffeine is a “controlled or restricted substance” as defined by the
International Olympic Committee (IOC). At
hletes are allowed up to 12 ug caffeine per
milliliter of urine before it is considered illegal
. The acceptable limit in sports sanctioned by
the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NC
AA) in the U.S. is 15 ug/ml urine. These high
urinary limits are to allow athletes to consume normal amounts of caffeine prior to
competition. A large amount of caffeine can be
ingested before reaching the “illegal” limit.
For example, if a 70 kg person rapidly drank a
bout 3-4 mugs, or 5-6 regular size cups of
drip-percolated coffee (~9 mg/kg bw) one hour before exercise, exercised for 1-1.5 hours
and then gave a urine sample, the urinary caffeine level would only approach the limit (12
ug/ml). The odds of reaching the limit throug
h normal caffeine ingestion are low, except
where smaller volumes of coffee with very high caffeine concentrations are consumed.
Therefore, an illegal urinary caffeine level
makes it highly probable that the athlete
deliberately took supplementary caffeine tablet
s or suppositories in an attempt to improve
The optimal dose for maximizing the chance t
hat exercise performance will be enhanced is
~3 – 6 mg/kg, where side effects are minimized and urine levels are legal. The side effects
of caffeine ingestion include anxiety, jitters, inability to focus, gastrointestinal unrest,
insomnia, irritability, and, with higher dose
s, the risk of heart arrhythmias and mild
hallucinations. While the side effects associat
ed with doses of up to 9 mg/kg do not appear
to be dangerous, they can be disconcerting if pr
esent prior to a competition and may impair
performance. Ingestion of higher doses of caffeine (10-15 mg/kg) is not recommended as
the side effects worsen. It should also be not
ed that most studies have used pure caffeine
rather than a caffeinated beverage or food. Thus, it is not certain that consuming the
“equivalent dose of caffeine” as coffee,
for example, will have the same result.
Diuretic Effect of Caffeine.
Coffee and/or caffeine are often reported to be diuretics,
suggesting that ingestion of large quantities coul
d lead to poor hydration status prior to and
during exercise.
However, the available literature does not suppo
rt immediate diuretic effect as body core
temperature, sweat loss, plasma volume and
urine volume were unchanged during exercise
following caffeine ingestion.
Ethical Considerations.
It is easy for endurance athletes to improve performance “legally”
with caffeine, as ergogenic effects have been report
ed with as little as 3 mg/kg body weight
(bw). Even ingesting a moderate caffeine dose
(5-6 mg/kg) is permissible. It has been
suggested that caffeine should be banned prior to endurance competitions, requiring the
athletes to abstain from caffeine approx. 48-
72 hours before competition. This limitation
would ensure that no athlete had an unfair
advantage on race day, but would not prevent
caffeine use in training. However, even if caffe
ine is banned in the future, what practice
should athletes follow at present? For elite athletes, it is currently acceptable and
reasonable to have their normal dietary coffee.
However, if they deliberately take pure
caffeine to gain an advantage on competitors,
it is clearly unethical and is considered
An equally important issue is the use of caffeine by the average active teenager or adult.
Caffeine’s widespread use was demonstrated in a
recent survey by the Canadian Centre for
Drug Free Sport. The survey found that 27% of
Canadian youths (11-18 years old) had used
a caffeine-containing substance in the previous
year for the specific purpose of enhancing
athletic performance. Does caffeine act as
a “gateway” drug for
the young who then use
dangerous substances? For the average, active
teenager or adult who is exercising with the
goals of enjoyment and self-improvement, using caffeine defeats these purposes. Proper
training and nutritional habits are more sensible and productive approaches.

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