Report: Vast majority of elite athletes take caffeine

August 25, 2016 4 min read

Report: Vast majority of elite athletes take caffeine

Caffeine has been banned in the past at Olympic games, but since 2004 the athletic-performance-boosting substance has only been monitored. De Keniaan Augustine Rono runs the marathon in Rotterdam in 2013. (Wikimedia Commons photo/Wouter Engler)

A report says three-quarters of elite athletes take caffeine. Caffeine can give a 1 to 2 percent or more boost in athletic performance, studies have shown. That was why as many as three-quarters of athletes used the substance in this summer’s Olympics. But it wasn’t always allowed in the Olympics.

In fact, in the 1972 summer Olympics silver lightweight judo medalist Bakaava Buidaa was stripped of his silver medal after testing positive for excessive caffeine. Other medalists were widely known to have been taking caffeine in copious amounts.

Anti-Doping

The World Anti-Doping Agency attempts to police athletes and make sure they aren’t taking substances, hormones and chemicals that purport to give them an unfair advantage over others who don’t take them.

We say purportbecause while it is widely and falsely believed that steroids, for example, increase athletes’ performance, these hormones and chemicals quickly and catastrophically destroy a person’s health.

An article about steroids on Drugs.com states:

Common side effects with anabolic steroids may include:

  • Severe acne, oily skin and hair
  • Hair loss
  • Liver disease, such as liver tumors and cysts
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease, such as heart attack and stroke
  • Altered mood, irritability, increased aggression, depression or suicidal tendencies
  • Alterations in cholesterol and other blood lipids
  • High blood pressure
  • Gynecomastia (abnormal development of mammary glands in men causing breast enlargement)
  • Shrinking of testicles
  • Azoospermia (absence of sperm in semen)
  • Menstrual irregularities in women
  • Infertility
  • Excess facial or body hair, deeper voice in women
  • Stunted growth and height in teens
  • Risk of viral or bacterial infections due to unsterile injections

No dangerous effects from caffeine

No such dangerous or even deadly effects are seen from caffeine if it is the true substance obtained from many plants worldwide and not some spurious knockoff.

Viter Energy Mints blog featured a posting titled Is having caffeine before a workout a good idea?that stated the regular athlete might not be able to run a marathon in 2:02.57 like Dennis Kimetto, but maybe after an invigorating jolt of java you can one run just a little bit quicker and burn some fat in the process. Caffeine can improve performance by 1.5 to 3 percent, recent studies show. And the amount needed to give the boost is no more than that in an 8-ounce cup of coffee or an energy drink or two.

Scientists used to think that to see a difference in their performance, athletes would need large doses of caffeine. But sports medicine specialist and doctor Haemi Choi tells Men’s Health that smaller amounts help with intense, short-term sports activities. A 1 to 3 percent improvement may not matter to an amateur athlete just playing hoops with friends, but it could make all the difference in a professional or Olympic sport.

Caffeine control in the Olympics has changed

An article on Bustle.com states that the rules on caffeine in the Olympics have changed somewhat through the years. By 2004, caffeine had been removed from the banned list and placed on a less restrictive program in which testers monitor patterns of caffeine abuse, says an article on ProCon.org.

The article on Bustle.com says caffeine gives a boost to athletes’ performance by increasing endurance, increasing its appeal to athletes who have to perform during long periods, including distance runners. Scientists believe caffeine works by triggering release of fat stores into the blood, freeing them up for use as energy.

“Caffeine can also improve focus and reaction time, which are also important for many Olympic events. Athletes looking to give themselves a boost can therefore strategically ingest caffeine on the day of their competition,” Bustle.com says.

Three-quarters of elite athletes take caffeine

In a Wall Street Journal video, a staff writer reports that about three-quarters of high-performance athletes take caffeine.

“Do you really get an advantage though if everyone is using it?” asks the host of the WSJ video. The reporter, Rachel Bachman, said the athletes get such a performance boost that they figure they might as well use it even though most of their opponents are too.

“If you’re not using it you might be leaving a benefit on the table. … So if you’re a high-level athlete why leave that benefit unused,” Ms. Bachman said.

Caffeine does not give just athletes advantages. Studies have shown it helps people in many ways, including fighting disease, depression and suicidal tendencies and also makes people feel better mentally, increases alertness and cognitive capability.

Most popular substance

Caffeine is the most popular mood-altering substance in the world. It is found on all continents except Antarctica and is placed in many products, including energy drinks, sodas, medicines, candies and gum.

Some natural products containing caffeine include coffee, tea, yerba mate, cocoa (chocolate), kola nuts, guarana berries, guayusa, and the yaupon holly.

So next time you wonder why athletes take caffeine just before a competition, remember they train harder, longer and get more results on caffeine. Caffeine helps you burn fat, increase your athletic performance and decrease muscle pain.

Mark Miller
Mark Miller



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