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Finish First Insider, Issue #44
February 09, 2009
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Please enjoy another issue packed with evidence-based information about sports performance training and news about current events at Finish First Sports Performance. If you find value in this e-newsletter, please forward this message to your teammates, coaches, or other parents of hard working athletes.

Neurological Effects of Caffeine on Athletic Performance

By Coach J. Hoy, CSCS, USAW, Jump Stretch, Inc. Certified,
Elite Performance Scientist

Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance throughout the world (6)(2). It has been labeled as a drug, since it has no nutritional value (4), and is a known stimulant used in sports for performance enhancement purposes (4)(6).

Dietary sources of caffeine include coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate bars, and soft drinks (2)(4), and most caffeine consumption in the U.S. is in the form of coffee (2).

Possible ergogenic benefits in athletic performance have been studied numerously, with some results showing that moderate-to-high (400+mg, or 3-7 mg/kg body weight) caffeine consumption may improve high-intensity strength, power output, and aerobic endurance (9)(8). Most of these studies tested the use of caffeine prior to activity, and some studies show that effects from caffeine can be seen between 15 and 120 minutes after oral ingestion (2).

Due to this time frame, consumption of caffeine during shorter athletic events may not elicit a positive performance effect.

Several studies have also shown that in addition to the possible performance enhancement benefits, moderate caffeine consumption may create neurological effects that could lead to improved performance. These include improved alertness, improved reaction time, decreased self-reported fatigue, increased force of muscle contraction (neuromuscular), decreased sleepiness, increased arousal, and a reduction in sensation of pain (8)(5)(2).

Many sports require athletic skills that could potentially benefit from the neurological effects of caffeine consumption prior to competition.

Sleep deprived persons have been shown to benefit greatly through cognitive improvements from caffeine consumption. These improvements were seen not only 1 hour after ingestion, but also 8 hours later (5). Athletes consuming caffeine at moderate doses may benefit during repeated event competitions, and especially if the athlete is sleep deprived. Furthermore, research also shows that the cognitive benefits from caffeine consumption were less apparent in sleep deprived subjects consuming 100mg, but were recognized from consuming 200mg and 300mg, respectively (5). It has been shown that the differences seen in benefit from 200mg compared to 300mg were minimal, suggesting that consumption of 200mg was sufficient to notice cognitive performance enhancement (5).

Additional research suggests that cognitive improvements occur as a result of the caffeine blocking the adenosine receptors in the central nervous system (4)(2). Similar research shows that a neuromuscular effect is created by caffeine promoting the release of calcium for each nerve impulse, which in turn can increase force generation for each muscular contraction (8).

While research shows that potential benefits exist from moderate caffeine consumption, it also shows that potential side effects may also exist. Sleep deprivation has been shown to occur with moderate caffeine consumption in the evening (1), and side effects such as impaired iron absorption, impaired zinc absorption, increased anxiety, and withdrawal symptoms (headache, irritability, decreased alertness, decreased energy) (2)(3)(4).

In normal healthy non-athletes, research shows that potential side effects from moderate caffeine consumption are minimal, and that there is very little evidence that it will lead to significant health problems (2). Most research that suggests health problems may occur as a result of consumption studied people with pre-existing health conditions such as hypertension, habitual smokers, anxiety disorders, and sleep disorders(3).


1. Drapeau C, Hamel-Hébert I, Robillard R, Selmaoui B, Filipini D, Carrier J. Challenging sleep in aging: The effects of 200 mg of caffeine during the evening in young and middle-aged moderate caffeine consumers. J Sleep Res. 2006;15(2):133-141.

2. Fredholm BB, Bättig K, Holmén J, Nehlig A, Zvartau EE. Actions of caffeine in the brain with special reference to factors that contribute to its widespread use. Pharmacol Rev. 1999;51(1):83-133.

3. Higdon JV, Frei B. Coffee and health: A review of recent human research. Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition. 2006;46(2):101-123.

4. Keisler BD, 2nd AT. Caffeine as an ergogenic aid. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2006;5(4):215-219.

5. Lieberman HR, Tharion WJ, Shukitt-Hale B, Speckman KL, Tulley R. Effects of caffeine, sleep loss, and stress on cognitive performance and mood during U.S. navy SEAL training. sea-air-land. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2002;164(3):250-261.

6. Magkos F, Kavouras SA. Caffeine use in sports, pharmacokinetics in man, and cellular mechanisms of action. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2005;45(7-8):535-562.

7. Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala M, Jeukendrup AE, Phillips SM. Nutritional needs of elite endurance athletes. part II: Dietary protein and the potential role of caffeine and creatine. European Journal of Sport Science. 2005;5(2):59-72.

8. Woolf K, Bidwell WK, Carlson AG. The effect of caffeine as an ergogenic aid in anaerobic exercise. International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism. 2008;18(4):412-429.

Motivational Sports Quotes

We can't win at home. We can't win on the road. I just can't figure out where else to play!
-- Pat Williams

(On Miami) If hockey fights were fake, you would see me in more of them.
-- Rod Gilbert

When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Adversity causes some men to break, and others to break records.
-- Source Unknown

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Coming Soon

Finish First Sports Performance Discovery Days
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ATTENTION: Finish First Sports Performance Embroidered Hoodies


The Finish First Sports Performance embroidered logo Hoodies are expected to be delivered this week. If you have ordered a Hoodie, you will need to pay before they are delivered. Please contact Jeremy about payment. (412)-787-5070

Unfortunately, all size small hoodies were backordered and will not arrive until after February 13th.


Thanks again for subscribing to this free e-newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. I look forward to your feedback as I continue to research to bring you the most current scientific training information available.

Should you have any specific article requests or questions, email me at Please visit for detailed sports performance training information and programs offered exclusively by Finish First Sports Performance.

Yours In Training,

Coach Jeremy S. Hoy, CSCS, USAW, Jump Stretch, Inc. Certified,
Elite Performance Scientist

Finish First Sports Performance

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