Caffeine makes a better soccer player

better with caffeine

Yet another reason to ignore the scolds who tell you to give up stuff you like – such as coffee.  A new study compared the effects of caffeine plus carbs to the effect of carbs alone on athletic performance of college soccer players.  Results: even the modest amount of caffeine used in the study increased skills like shooting accuracy and dribbling.

This was a small study to be sure: only 8 subjects, all trained soccer players.  Before playing a 90 minute soccer session, they drank either a caffeine-carb combination drink, a carb-only drink or a placebo drink with no nutritional value at all.  Players’ blood glucose and lactate were measured, along with their skills and endurance during the 90 minute workout.  While there was no difference in endurance between the carb-caffeine and carb groups, the carb-caffeine group showed significantly better accuracy at shooting and improved dribbling skills.  In addition, elevated blood lactate showed that the carb-caffeine drink allowed a higher workout intensity compared to just carbs.  The placebo drink didn’t have any beneficial effects.  Both carb and carb-cafffeine drinks results in more endurance than the placebo drink.

M.K. Ranchordas, one of the study authors, noted that the caffeine-carb combination would be useful for athletes competing in a sport that involves both endurance and skills.  Soccer, hockey, lacrosse and basketball come to mind.  For sheer endurance events, like long distance running or bike racing, caffeine might not make that much difference.  The amount of caffeine used was 16o mg, about the amount in a typical cup of coffee.  A cup of coffee along with some carbs (such as an energy bar, cookie or fruit) consumed ahead of competition or training might help improve skills and workout intensity.  There are other ways to get caffeine: tea, iced tea, other drinks with added caffeine, caffeine pills.  Energy shots famously give you a caffeine buzz (rather than actual energy from calories).  Recently Consumer Labs found that some energy shot products contained more caffeine than expected, based on label claims.  By the way, energy shot or gel products that are low- or no-calorie would not work as a carb-caffeine food at all.  Don’t expect any endurance or skill improvement with those.  Finally, the study was done with highly trained college-aged male athletes.  A middle-aged less trained recreational athlete might have different results.  And dosing kids with caffeine in the hopes of turning them into sports stars, is never a good idea.


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