Caffeine is found in an enormous number of sports products including gels, chews and hydration mixes. Why? There are various potential performance enhancing effects. First, it can help to mobilize free fatty acids which may help you to better use fat during endurance training and endurance events. If we can leverage fat better, we spare the carbohydrate or glycogen stored in muscle which results in increased endurance. In other words, by saving carbs, you can go farther and longer.

Another benefit to caffeine is the stimulant effect. It wakes us up and makes us more aware. This heightened awareness may translate into better moods during those low points in your event. Lastly, many of you may not know this but having a large dose of caffeine with a lot of simple sugar can improve the post event rate of glycogen restoration.

Is this practical? Well, for you caffeine drinkers, I hate to tell you but it only matters if you don’t normally use caffeine. Generally speaking, if you’re a caffeinated coffee drinker or if you normally use products with caffeine, it’s less unlikely caffeine will help during a endurance training or racing events. The less you consume caffeine, the greater chances caffeine will help your performance. Daily or regular caffeine consumers dilute the effects of caffeine during an event. And, most of us don’t want to go through the 6 months of resisting caffeine to de-sensitize our bodies to reach the point where the caffeine in gels, chews, and powdered sports drinks will have an effect on your performance.

So what do you do? If you’re a caffeine drinker, just keep doing what you’re dong and understand the effects of caffeine during training or an event will be measureable depending on your rate of caffeine consumption. If you’re not a caffeine drinker and want to try it, I suggest you experiment during shorter training sessions to understand and adapt to the potential side effects. Be preferred for the post event caffeine buzz when you’re very tired and cant get to sleep. I’m not a caffeine drinker and avoid caffeine products during training. But as an Ironman competitor, I use it pretty regulary during the run. Therefore, its not unlikely that you will find me shopping at Wal-Mart at 3:00 am after an Ironman finish.

Credit in large part for this article goes to  Happy Trails.