Piampiano is not a caffeine addict. She has maybe two cups of coffee in a year, because she is sensitive to its effects. It makes her jittery. But on race day, she uses it thoughtfully and systematically to optimize her performance. She uses energy gels made by Clif Bar, one of her sponsors, to integrate calories and caffeine into her race-day nutrition plan. Before the race, she usually takes a gel with 50 milligrams of caffeine. Then on the biking leg, she takes 50 milligrams per hour. And that increases later in the race.
Both the Olympics and the U.S. NCAA have lifted their bans on caffeine. The stimulant used to be classified as a performance-enhancing substance. It does boost performance, studies are showing, but not in the same way steroids or other synthetic substances do.