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Caffeine enhances sprint running performance

In professional sports, even the smallest advantage can take athletes from being mere participants to the podium. Thus, athletes try to achieve such a competitive edge through a variety of performance enhancing training methods and pre-event performance enhancing aids. Caffeine, a well-known stimulant, is one of these aids, with World Athletics recommending it as an ergogenic (physical-performance enhancing) aid in a statement on nutritional strategies for athletes.

Now, a research team led by the Ritsumeikan University in Japan has investigated the acute effects of caffeine supplementation on sprint running performance. “While previous studies have investigated the effects of caffeine on running activity, evidence from these studies is not conclusive enough to support the World Athletics consensus. A majority of them have looked at its effects on single sprint runs of less than 60 meters. Therefore, it was important to study the ergogenic effects of caffeine on the 100-meter sprint performance,” explained senior author Takeshi Hashimoto, an expert in Sport and Health Science at Ritsumeikan.

The scientists recruited 13 male collegiate sprinters and, in a preliminary test, determined the time it took for each participant to reach peak blood plasma caffeine concentrations. Then, after ingesting either caffeine or placebo supplements, the athletes were called two more times for 100-meter trials. As measures of performance, the researchers calculated sprint time and velocity.

The analysis revealed that the 100-meter sprint time was shortened significantly for athletes who received caffeine, with a decrease of 0.14 seconds compared to those in the control group. Moreover, this decrease was associated with a decrease in sprint time for the first 60 meters.

In addition, the mean sprint velocity for the 0–10 meters and 10–20 meters splits was also higher in the athletes who received caffeine. Yet, since no significant difference was found in the sprint time for the last 40 meters, caffeine supplementation appeared to provide more explosive acceleration in the early stage of the race.

These findings could lead to the enhancement of sports performance of athletes through the use of caffeine as an ergogenic aid.

“The insights gained from this study have given us the first direct evidence of caffeine’s ergogenicity on sprint running in athletics. This also serves as evidence to directly support the recommendations for caffeine usage by World Athletics. The study thus provides one more advantage that athletes can use to inch themselves closer towards victory,” Hashimoto concluded.

The study is published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.      

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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