My love for bikes and caffeine are one in the same; I don’t think I could live without either. I’ll be brutally honest, I am a caffeine junkie! One of my favorite quotes is “I don’t have a problem with caffeine. I have a problem without it.”
Cycling and coffee always seem to go hand in hand. Photo: paulscho/flickr
Can caffeine benefit cycling performance?
Yes! Yes, it can. There have been numerous studies that show caffeine’s stimulant effects are an effective pre-workout supplement which can promote endurance and boost your performance. I know for me caffeine pre-ride helps me feel more alert (especially if I am riding early), I seem to react faster and generally don’t feel like I am working as hard, which helps me to train or compete at a higher intensity for a longer period of time. To me caffeine before a ride is a no brainer, but everyone reacts differently to caffeine so it’s important to test how caffeine affects you during your hard training sessions. If you feel like it is making you anxious, jittery or causing your heart to race then you may need to dial back on the amount you consume or cut it out completely.
How much caffeine should you consume?
A lot of research shows that about three to six milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight is all you need to see benefits. (190 to 380mg for a 140-pound rider) Higher doses don’t do more to improve performance, and are actually more likely to cause side effects. While you are training it is suggested to start at the lower end of recommended caffeine dose and work up to a dose that works for you.
When to take it?
Timing is everything! Studies are showing that caffeine takes about a full hour to affect the body. To get the most benefit out of your caffeine take it 60 minutes before you head out for your ride or race. If you are going to be riding for longer than 2 hours, it may be beneficial to break up your caffeine intake and consume caffeine during your ride as well. For example, if I am going on a 4-hour ride. I will consume about 100mg of caffeine pre-ride and then about 50mg of caffeine each additional hour I am riding.
What about tolerance?
Unfortunately, it is true…our bodies eventually become accustomed to the effects of caffeine, which limits the performance benefit. What I have found to work for me is to try and cut back my daily caffeine intake about a week or two before a big race. That way on race morning I am more likely to feel the effects and benefit of my caffeine.
Where and what to get?
Coffee is one of the most widely consumed caffeine source, but coffee may be difficult to consume while riding and caffeine content can immensely vary depending on the preparation, brand, and variety. During my rides I like to use gels, chews, and other supplements. Some of my favorites are:
Boom! Power Rush by the body evolution – Lemon Lime squeeze is my favorite flavor. I usually mix a packet into my water bottle and drink pre or during ride. (210mg of caffeine per packet)
Honey Stinger Chews – The Limaide and Cherry Cola both have 32mg of caffeine per package. I love the way these taste and they are easy to get down while riding.
Gu energy gel– For a quick pick me up I love the Salted Carmel Gu. I usually don’t like gels but this one is good! (20mg of caffeine)
Not only for pre-ride but post-ride too!
It is well known that you should consume carbohydrates post-ride to help rebuild your glycogen stores but now there are studies that show that combining your carbs with caffeine may enhance your recovery. In the study, Cyclists rode hard for two consecutive days to drain their glycogen stores. They then drank a carb beverage with or without caffeine. Researchers found that having a drink with caffeine rebuilds glycogen stores 66 percent more than a carb-only drink. In others words drink up!!
Lifetime Fitness Mocha Madness Smoothie
- 1 cup fat free organic milk
- 1 cup ice
- 1 scoop whey protein powder
- 1 scoop Cafe Essentials Mocha Java Powder
- Put all ingredients in blender or VitaMix.
- Blend until smooth.
- Pour and enjoy!
Nutrition Information – Calories: 300 Fat: 6 Carbohydrates: 25 Fiber: 3 Protein: 35 grams
Felicia is a Moxie Cycling Ambassador and blog contributor. Check out her bio here!