Caffeine How much and when?

I have been using caffeine for training for a long time. But now that I’m approaching 40 I guess you could say I’m thinking a bit more “responsible” and was wondering how much caffeine is to much? and how often in long events that I like to do is to often? And can I use caffeine for all my training sessions or reserve it only for the really hard sessions? And lastly what are the dangers involved?

@William, welcome to the forum! Lots of great questions loaded in there.

In terms of dosage, the ergogenic range seems to be around 2-6mg/kg, with higher doses seemingly being unnecessary for additional performance improvement. In terms of how much is too much, 400-600mg is a range I’ve seen to suggest the point at which you may experience negative effects.

If you have a large enough initial dose though, subsequent doses may not have as great of an effect due to the half-life of caffeine in the 4-6 hour range.

As a 40 year old, I make the choice to limit caffeine consumption to a low/moderate level by having <2 mg/kg when I do consume it, and do not take it regularly for training sessions. When I do use it for longer training sessions, it usually comes from gels (so 20-40 mg/gel, maybe ~100-120 mg total for any given session), and races are the only time I might ingest an ergogenic dose. This makes me feel good about the choice to consume a little caffeine and reap some benefits while keeping risk for adverse effects as low as possible.

What’s your routine like in terms of training and racing with caffeine?

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@william interesting question and good response from @ryan. It’s been a while since I’ve really dived into the caffeine research, but I can add a few thoughts.

What has been proven is that caffeine is one of the three supplements that can actually help performance. However, generally the research shows that it helps up to about 200 mg and has no additional benefits beyond that. So, often just a cup of coffee (if you’re a coffee drinker) is going to do the trick.

I’m personally not a fan of supplements and would recommend against caffeine pills. If you really want to use caffeine to help your performance, getting it through more natural sources or buying gels that have a little caffeine are all that you need. I would certainly recommend against taking it before every training ride.

I’m not aware of any dangers of caffeine in typical quantities (i.e. 200 mg or less per day.) Above that, it can have an impact on mood and sleep. I’d have to dig into the research to see if there are negative health effects. Also keep in mind that everyone responds differently.

@ryan Thank you that gives me a good guideline. I do use caffeine for my training almost all the time, on my 90kg that would put me in the range of 3.3mg/kg, but for long races ill usually have a top-up at 5 or 6 hours. I take caffeine through a sports drink that also contains some other marketing nonsense type products, like Amino acid and Nitric Oxide, what ever that means. For me its about the Caffeine and it tastes decent. @trevor I’m thinking now ill start cutting back for the training at least.

I know it improves fat metabolism so I like it for first thing easy rides where I don’t have time for food… Also I need it to get up and get riding during the week.

I can tell a difference between 100mg and ~200mg (the recommend dose for performance). So I think you can be “responsible” with smaller doses most of the time and a larger dose when you really need that extra push. However as Ryan pointed out, if you have a large initial dose, more a couple hours later may not do much, so consider timing (I believe you need to consume ~1hr before it takes full effect). If you have a 6hour race and the most important part is at the end, then don’t take a ton right at the beginning IMO.

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