Can’t cope in the morning until you have had a cup of coffee?
Well it might not just be the jolt you need in the morning to get your working day going but it can also help with training and athletic performance.
Dr Rob Child, Science in Sport chief scientific officer, knows that caffeine can help to get your motor running. The old way of having a mug of coffee before an event has been updated. SiS have a range of caffeine products GO Energy plus caffeine gel - 75mg caffeine; GO Energy plus double caffeine gel - 150mg caffeine; and GO Hydro plus caffeine – 75mg.
Rob said: “ In some ways the old method of having a coffee isn’t a bad one.
“The difficulty comes in how do you have a cup of coffee in the race. “I used to work with a cyclist called Linus Gerdemann, who wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France back in the day.
“He used to say put a caffeine shot in my bottle - in with the electrolyte drink. “But people want something a bit more palatable than that.
“The caffeine gel is a much better thing to take during exercise because it’s got energy and caffeine.”
There are multiple benefits of caffeine – before exercise it helps mobilise fat from the adipose tissue into the bloodstream.
The free fatty acids can be sucked up by the muscle and be used during exercise which reduces the reliance on glycogen in part of the ride.
Rob added: “This means maybe you spared 50 grammes of glycogen in the first couple of hours of cycling and you have that extra at the end of the race, in the muscle, to then utilise to increase exercise at a higher power.
“It is a way of saving or sparing carbohydrate at the beginning of a ride and burning more fat.”
Caffeine can also lead to fat loss when taken before exercise. It mobilises fat from the adipose tissue, which is something that happens naturally through exercise, but doing it beforehand means you can potentially burn more fat.
Rob added: “A lot of the guys in the winter would take caffeine as part of breakfast or they might even reduce the amount of breakfast or have no breakfast so they could burn more fat during the exercise session if that was one of their goals.”
But there are other benefits that can also be derived from the humble coffee bean. Caffeine can also alter muscle fibre recruitment patterns, which allows more muscle fibres to be engaged during physical activity which can increase power output. From the psychological standpoint it also has some benefits in terms of alertness and reaction time.
Rob said: “Alertness is quite important because if you spend two, three hours on a bike you do tend to get fatigued and it can require a lot of concentration.
“By being more alert, maybe you follow the correct wheel or you spot the pothole rather than crashing into it and buckling your wheel.
“Reaction times are so important for cycling. They are useful for those times that people are going to fall off in the race and you will have to react to something you haven’t anticipated - just a few milliseconds can be the difference between avoiding a crash or being part of it.”
The key areas for caffeine use are the effects on muscle, on fat burning and on mental performance.
And it’s not just cyclists that can benefit. Rob said: “It’s useful for quite a wide range of events and sports as well.
“I know that caffeine gels are used by the football teams that SiS are working with, both before the match and at half-time as well.
“So that, in particular, towards the end of the second half when other teams are going into fatigue the teams we sponsor are in slightly better physical and mental state and that’s when the opportunities can occur in terms of goal-scoring opportunities.
“But also the hydrotabs I think are useful pre-event, to provide caffeine and hydration before the event actually starts is also beneficial.”
The caffeine gels can also be used in conjunction with the protein gels as well. Rob said: You can mix and match, it depends on the duration of the event.
“It might be that you take a go hydro tablet say half an hour before the event and then you might take a caffeine gel, for example, if cycling maybe half an hour before a mountain, you might take another caffeine gel at the end of the event.
“When I worked with Carlos Sastre (winner of the 2008 Tour de France) – he would take the caffeine gels with him as an emergency measure.
“If it was, for example, a rolling stage, normally he is a good climber and doesn’t have any difficulties.
“But if there is a bit of a surprise and someone, or some other team, goes full gas on a rolling stage, you get isolated, he needs to be ready to go and push himself really deep he takes the caffeine gels with him.
“When he used to come back and say ‘I’ve had a pretty good day’, I’d ask why and would say ‘hah I haven’t taken any caffeine gels’.
“So he was well within his physical capabilities. But sometimes in an event to get through a bad patch or difficult patch, in say a marathon, then a caffeine gel is one of the ideal things to take with you.”