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Caffeine in Sports Nutrition

Caffeine seems to be everywhere you look nowadays. Besides the usual coffee and tea consumption, caffeine can be found in gels, gum and aspirin. When it comes to caffeine in sports nutrition, it can either enhance or regress an athlete's abilities.

Physical Stress: Known and Unknown

Caffeine can stress the body, without an athlete even realizing it. For instance, a dark roast coffee bean has less caffeine than a light roast bean. If you're going for a ten mile run and drank a dark roast coffee at breakfast, your caffeine peak may have already begun to recede. This crash can make you reach for a caffeinated energy product. However, if you drink caffeine close to a strenuous workout, there is a risk of putting unnecessary strain on the heart. When cooling down from a workout,take note of your pulse before reaching for caffeine. Many athletes afflicted with a headache after a workout may grab an aspirin. Two Extra Strength Excedrin have one hundred and thirty grams of pharmaceutical grade caffeine. This is equivalent to about one cup of coffee. The heart and other organs may once again be at risk. Assessing these simple choices could make an adjustment that may give you that extra edge needed to enhance your workout. Talk to your doctor about your medical history and how caffeine may apply.

Know Your Limits

Ingesting caffeine one hour prior to a workout can sometimes help stamina and endurance. Below is a list of common foods and their approximate caffeine content. Knowing the amount of caffeine you ingest and how you react to it can give you that extra edge in not only your physical but mental performance as well.

  • 8 oz. brewed black coffee = 135 mg
  • 8 oz. instant = 95 mg
  • 1 oz. espresso = 30-50 mg
  • 8 oz. green tea = 25-40 mg
  • 8 oz. black tea = 40-70 mg
  • 12 oz. Coca-Cola = 34.5 mg
  • 12 oz. Diet Coke = 46.5 mg
  • 16 oz. Red Bull = 80 mg
  • 1.5 oz. milk chocolate bar = 27 mg
  • 4 oz. ready to eat chocolate pudding = 9 mg
  • Caffeinated Energy Gels = 30-50 mg


You could be suffering from dehydration or acid reflux and not even know why. Caffeine could be the culprit. There is research suggesting that caffeine may dehydrate the body. This still remains a debate, but if a person consumes caffeine and has repeated muscle cramps, there very well could be a link. Water deprived muscles will shrink and contract, causing pain. The skin will also display signs of dehydration. Watch for dry flaking and minimal elasticity. This depends on the amount of caffeine ingested as well as the individual, but if it sounds like you, you may want to look into it.


Caffeine can sometimes induce acid reflux due to its high acidity. If in the middle of a workout you find yourself battling a succession of burning belches, there is a good chance that it's that day’s caffeine bubbling up the esophagus.

Try Another Kick

Caffeine from the coffee bean is believed by some to have a different effect than caffeine from leaves. Yerba Mate', popular in Argentina, is a tea derived from the naturally caffeinated leaves of the Mate' tree. This tea offers a similar caffeine effect, but has a calmer rise and fall of the caffeine "high."

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