Caffeine is one of the most comprehensively studied ingredients in the food supply and has been safely consumed in foods and beverages for centuries. Evidence of caffeine’s beneficial effects on performance, both mental and athletic, is especially strong.
Caffeine & Mental Performance
Caffeine is known to improve mental performance. Several recent studies have demonstrated that caffeine increases key aspects of cognitive function related to alertness. In one study, participants used the words “vigor”, “efficiency”, “energy”, and “clear-headedness” to describe their moods after consuming caffeine.1 Research has also shown that caffeine consumption has the ability to improve memory and reasoning in sleep-deprived individuals.2 Alertness and performance also improved.3 The consumption of caffeine may benefit consumers through improvements in their performance at school and work.
Additionally, a study done by the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research demonstrated that consumption of approximately 300 mg caffeine is associated with a slower rate of decline in cognitive abilities in women.4 This suggests that caffeine intake could help keep mental and memory skills sharper for a longer period of time in older individuals. These beneficial effects also appear to increase with age.
Caffeine & Physical Performance
There is evidence that caffeine can improve physical performance. In a study on recreational athletes, the consumption of 6mg/kg body weight of caffeine – roughly 490 mg caffeine for a 180 lb. male - significantly increased muscle endurance during brief, intense exercise. Prior to a maximum effort run, caffeine consumption of 5 mg/kg body weight – roughly 295 mg caffeine for a 130 lb. female - resulted in significantly greater anaerobic metabolism and improved athletic performance among recreational runners.5
In addition, a study conducted on cyclists found that consuming 6 mg caffeine per kg body weight (about 355 mg for a 130 lb person) improved performance times during a cycling trial, regardless of whether caffeine was ingested one hour before exercise or in a series of doses throughout the trial.6
Consumption of caffeine has also been shown to improve endurance during physical exercise when consumed before the task.8 One explanation for this is that caffeine may lower the threshold for exercise-induced β-endorphin and cortisol release. These hormones produce the so-called “runner’s high,” which may contribute to the reported caffeine exercise benefits.
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1,3 Lieberman, H.R. The effects of ginseng, ephedrine, and caffeine on cognitive performance, mood and energy. Nutr Rev. 2001; Apr;59(4):91–102.
2 Bonnet, M.H., Balkin, T.J., Dinges, D.F., Roehrs, T., Rogers, N.L., Wesensten, N.J. The use of stimulants to modify performance during sleep loss: A review by the Sleep Deprivation and Stimulant Task Force of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep. 2005; Sep 1;28(9):1163-1187.
4 Ritchie, K., Carrière, I., de Mendonca, A., Portet, F., Dartigues, J.F., Rouaud, O., Barberger-Gateau, P., and Ancelin M.L. The Neuroprotective Effects of Caffeine. Neurology. 2007;69:536-545.
5 Doherty, M. The effects of caffeine on the maximal accumulated oxygen deficit and short-term running performance. Int J Sport Nutr. 1998; 8:95–104.
6,7 Cox, G.R., Desbrow, B., Montgomery, P.G., Anderson, M.E., Bruce, C.R., Macrides, T.A., Martin, D.T., Moquin, A., Roberts, A., Hawley, J.A., Burke, L.M. Effect of different protocols of caffeine intake on metabolism and endurance performance. J Appl Physiol. 2002; 93:990–999.
8 Laurent, D., Schneider, K.E., Prusaczyk, W.K., Franklin, C., Vogel, S.M., Krssak, M., Petersen, K.F., Goforth, H.W., Shulman, G.I. Effects of caffeine on muscle glycogen utilization and the neuroendocrine axis during exercise. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000;Jun;85(6):2170-5.