Jan 29, 2015
Caffeine & Carbs

Caffeine is a familiar pick-me-up for many athletic trainers, but it may also help their athletes, according to a study conducted at the University of Birmingham in England. Researchers at the school found that putting caffeine into sports drinks raised the absorption rate of carbohydrates in athletes by 26 percent, which can provide extra energy for those competing in endurance sports, such as cycling and distance running.

“You are kind of sparing your small body carbohydrate stores,” Asker Jeukendrup, PhD, told the Associated Press. Jeukendrup is Director of the school’s Human Performance Laboratory and an author of the study. “You can get more energy from your drink, [and that] means you are using less energy from your body stores.”

As part of the study, cyclists rode in three two-hour exercise sessions at 55 percent of their maximum output while consuming one of three different drinks—glucose, glucose with caffeine (five milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight), and plain water. Blood and expired air samples taken every 15 minutes showed that the cyclists consuming the caffeine drink absorbed carbohydrates faster than the others.

The researchers plan further studies to determine the level of caffeine intake required to increase carbohydrate absorption and measure the actual performance increase that drinks with caffeine may produce. The NCAA bans caffeine only in large doses (greater than 15 micrograms/milliliter in urine). The World Anti-Doping Agency removed caffeine from its banned list in 2004.

The study, titled “Caffeine Increases Exogenous Carbohydrate Oxidation During Exercise,” has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Applied Physiology and is available through the journal’s Web site at: jap.physiology.org.

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