This Month’s Question: What’s up with caffeine in sports nutrition products these days?
A couple of months ago, I wrote about the benefits of drinking coffee especially as it relates to caffeine’s ability to enhance athletic performance. On the heels of that, it comes as no surprise that sports nutrition companies have jumped on the bandwagon and started adding caffeine to their products. This is a relatively new phenomenon that has only come about in the last 3-4 years. I started racing back in my teen years and my sports nutrition “go-to” at that time was a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie. Think – warm gooey, sugary goodness when pulled out of your pocket! These days, I know better than to consume a product like this and now have a full market of sports nutrition products to choose from. Consumers can get targeted products specifically formulated for pre-, during, and post-workouts. Each one is designed to meet nutritional demands to prepare the body for exercise, sustain the body during exercise or help the body recover and regenerate post-exercise. Quite the change from when I started racing.
When should you take caffeine before a workout?
Most sports nutrition products that contain caffeine are intended to be used immediately before the workout (such as 15 minutes) or during the workout. There’s an unspoken assumption that many athletes are also coffee drinkers so depending on when you have that last cup of java will determine whether you need (or want) caffeine in your sports nutrition product. For instance, if your last cup of coffee is at lunchtime, then you might want a sports nutrition product with caffeine if your workout is at 5 pm to give you a little jump start or edge.
How much caffeine should you take?
Anyone who decides to use sports nutrition products with caffeine should try them out before a workout to make sure they know how it makes their body feel. The caffeine content will vary depending upon the product so try ‘em out while doing everyday activities (such as at work) and see if you notice anything before you use them leading up to a workout. Likewise, try ‘em out during a regular workout before trying them on race day. People seem to react differently to caffeine and some of this goes back to body chemistry and tolerance to caffeine. In drinks, we typically see anywhere between 30-120 mg of caffeine and in sports nutrition products, 11-100 mg.
- Maurten Gel with Caffeine - 100 mg
- Picky Bar Smooth Caffeinator - 11 mg
- Clif Shot Blok Pieces - 17 mg *per piece,
- Skratch Labs Matcha and Lemons Sports Hydration Mix - 16 mg *per 16 ounces.
Some potential side effects of caffeine: increased heart rate, nervousness/shakiness, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and GI distress. I've tried Clif Shot Blok Pieces with caffeine during a workout and got a headache. I consumed about 3 pieces which are equivalent to 51 mg of caffeine. I no longer use any sports nutrition product with caffeine because of this, but continue to have a small morning cup of coffee or green tea. Because the packaging on caffeine-containing vs. non-caffeine containing products looks pretty darn near the same, I encourage readers to closely read the ingredients list to avoid any unnecessary surprises. If you’re caffeine curious, try out a few products and record your ability to meet your performance goals and random body sensations. Keep a record of your workouts and then determine if this a good fit for you. Check out the sports nutrition products at Fleet Feet and if you have questions, a knowledgeable team member can assist you. For me, I no longer use the Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies during my workouts and consume very little caffeine throughout the day, but still get results!
** Feel free to submit your nutrition-related question to Katina. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your question is chosen, I will send you either a Picky Bar or Glukos gel to try on your next training run!
Katina Sayers is the owner/operator of Katina’s Nutritional Coaching Corner. She has an extensive background in health and education that began with degrees in exercise physiology, health and physical education, community health, and culminating with a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction. She completed an advanced certificate of study in Integrative Nutrition and Health Coaching from the renowned Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in New York City. For the last four years, she has worked one-on-one with clients, presented a multitude of nutrition topics for large and small audiences, contracted with businesses to implement worksite wellness initiatives, and currently manages day-to-day food service operations at a local non-profit agency, as well as directs activities related to nutrition and health. Katina can be reached at email@example.com.