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Does Caffeine Enhance Exercise Performance? The Debate Continues

December 14, 2011

Caffeine is regarded by some as being a potent stimulant, but the debate continues as to whether it enhances exercise performance. A range of expert opinions capture the scope of this ongoing debate in an informative roundtable discussion published in Journal of Caffeine Research, a quarterly peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The roundtable discussion is available online.

Led by Journal of Caffeine Research Editor-in-Chief Jack E. James, PhD, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland, the roundtable “Caffeine and Physical Performance” presents a range of views on the extent to which caffeine may enhance athletic performance. While the participants appear to agree that caffeine is likely to have performance-enhancing effects and seems to have the broadest effects of known stimulants for enhancing performance and endurance, they emphasize that the study data have been mixed. Many factors can affect caffeine´s impact on performance, including the type of exercise or sport and whether it is aerobic or anaerobic, caffeine dosing, the use of other stimulants (poly-supplementation), and the length of rest intervals. Additional studies are needed to understand what factors can boost or inhibit the effects of caffeine and why some people may achieve enhanced performance with caffeine while others will not.

A research article in that same issue by Richard Bloomer, PhD and colleagues, Cardiorespiratory/Metabolic Laboratory, University of Memphis, looks specifically at the effects of caffeine and 1,3-dimethylamylamine (1,3-D, a natural stimulant derived from geranium flowers) on exercise performance. The researchers compared the effects of these stimulants, taken alone or in combination, on run times by participants in a 10-kilometer run.

Journal of Caffeine Research: The International Multidisciplinary Journal of Caffeine Science covers the effects of caffeine on a wide range of diseases and conditions, including mood disorders, neurological disorders, cognitive performance, cardiovascular disease, and sports performance. The Journal explores all aspects of caffeine science, including the biochemistry of caffeine; its effects on the human body; benefits, dangers, and contraindications; and caffeine addiction and withdrawal, across all stages of the human life span from prenatal exposure to end-of-life.

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