At the international level of sport, even the smallest advantage can take an athlete from mere participant to podium status. Therefore, athletes try to achieve this competitive edge with the help of performance-enhancing training methods and performance-enhancing aids before the event.
Caffeine, a nervous system stimulant, is one of the most common and popular performance-enhancing aids used by athletes around the world. In fact, the International Association of Athletics Federations (now called World Athletics, WA) recommends caffeine as an ergogenic aid (or physical performance enhancer) in a nutritional strategy consensus statement for athletics.
However, due to the lack of research on the effects of caffeine on sprint performance, the recommendation reflects evidence from other anaerobic sports rather than sprint running in athletics, such as the 100 m sprint.
To advance the research, a team of Japanese researchers investigated the acute effects of caffeine supplementation on sprint running performance. This study, led by Professor Takeshi Hashimoto of Ritsumeikan University in Japan, was later published in the Medicine and science in sport and exercise log.
According to Professor Hashimoto, “While previous studies have investigated the effects of caffeine on running activity, the evidence from these studies is not conclusive enough to support the World Athletics consensus. they examined its effects on single sprint runs of less than 60 meters, so it was important to study the ergogenic effects of caffeine on 100 meter sprint performance.
The researchers recruited 13 male college sprinters for the study. In a preliminary test, the researchers determined how long it takes each athlete to reach the maximum concentration of caffeine in the blood plasma after ingesting it. Taking this into account, athletes were called up twice more for 100-meter time trials after ingesting caffeine or placebo supplements.
As performance measures, the researchers measured sprint speed and calculated sprint time. Discounting the effects of environmental factors, corrected sprint time was used to examine the effects of caffeine supplementation.
The results revealed that the corrected 100m sprint time was significantly shortened for athletes given caffeine, with a decrease of 0.14 seconds compared to controls. This decrease in time was largely associated with a decrease in sprint time for the first 60 meters of the sprint.
The researchers also found that the average sprint speed for the 0-10m and 10-20m splits was significantly higher in the athletes who received caffeine. Moreover, no significant difference was observed in the sprint time for the last 40 meters of the sprint, despite the shortening of the sprint time in the first 60 meters. Together, these observations suggest that caffeine supplementation provided sprinters with more explosive acceleration at the start of the race.
In the long term, these results could translate into improved sports performance in athletes by increasing the use of caffeine as an ergogenic aid during sprints.
“The information from this study has provided us with the first direct evidence of caffeine’s ergogenicity on sprint running in athletics. It also serves as evidence to directly support World Athletics recommendations for caffeine use. The study therefore offers an additional advantage that athletes can use to get closer to victory,” concludes Professor Hashimoto.
Teppei Matsumura et al, Acute Effect of Caffeine Supplementation on 100-m Sprint Running Performance: A Field Test, Medicine and science in sport and exercise (2022). DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000003057
Provided by Ritsumeikan University
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