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The Athlete’s Kitchen Caffeine: Performance Enhancement in a Mug
Whether you are looking for a hit, boost, pleasing stimu- means you don't know what you will be getting if you plan lant, or excuse to socialize with your friends, coffee is the to purchase a pre-exercise espresso or coffee. go-to beverage for many athletes. Coffee-drinkers enjoy the • Energy drinks are a popular source of caffeine. A study of way a cup of morning brew enhances their feelings of well- 500 college students in North Carolina reports 51% drank at being and their ability to accomplish daily tasks. An esti- least one energy drink in an average month in the semester.
mated 80% of us drink coffee daily. Why, we are more like- Sixty-seven percent used the energy drink to stay awake; ly to drink coffee than eat fruit! Thank goodness moderate 65%, to increase energy; and 54%, to drink with alcohol coffee intake is typically not associated with health risks.
while partying. Of the party-drinkers, 49% consumed 3 or For athletes, caffeine is a proven performance enhancer. more energy drinks. That makes for a wide-awake drunk In their new book Caffeine for Sports Performance, sports who may believe it’s OK to drive a car. dietitians Louise Burke and Ben Desbrow and exercise • Caffeinated chewing gum is popular among (sleep physiologist Lawrence Spriet address all-things-caffeine deprived) soldiers. The gum effectively boosts physical and that an athlete might want to know. Here are just a few tid- mental performance and helps maintain reaction time, vig- bits that I gleaned from this comprehensive yet interesting- ilance, and ability to think clearly. The caffeine in chewing to-read resource. Perhaps the information will help you gum gets delivered quicker than via a pill (5 vs. 30 minutes) add a little bit of zip to your workouts. Note: No amount of because it gets absorbed though the cheeks, not the gut. caffeine will compensate for a lousy diet. If you choose to • Caffeinated colas offer not only caffeine but also a hefty use caffeinated products to enhance your sports perform- dose of sugar for fuel. The combination works! Hence, some ance, make sure you are also fueling wisely! athletes claim defizzed Coca-Cola is their preferred sports • A cup of pre-exercise coffee can help most athletes work drink despite having only 35 mg per 12-ounce can. harder—without realizing it. Caffeine has been shown to • Caution: Consuming caffeine might contribute to nega- enhance performance by about 1% to 3%, particularly in tive effects. For example, let’s say you are running, rowing, endurance sports. For example, cyclists who consumed caf- or swimming in more than one competitive event in a day.
feine prior to a 24-mile (40-km) time-trial generated 3.5% If caffeine helps you go harder in the first event, will that more power than when they did the ride without caffeine. “fry” you for the second event? Can taking another dose of • Athletes vary in their responsiveness to caffeine, from caffeine counter that fatigue? With a weekend tournament, highly effective to negative. Some of the side effects associ- will too much caffeine on the first day ruin your sleep, so ated with too much caffeine include higher heart rate, anxi- you are unable to perform as well on the second day? Until ety, “coffee stomach”, irritability, and insomnia. research answers those questions, be sensible! • The recommended performance-enhancing dose of caf- • Caffeine is only a weak diuretic and is no longer consid- feine is about 1.5 mg/lb (3 mg/kg) body weight. This can be ered to be dehydrating. A novice coffee drinker can become consumed 1 hour before the event, and/or during the event tolerant to the diuretic effects of caffeine in 4 to 5 days of (such as a caffeinated gel or defizzed cola every hour). For regular caffeine intake. Even high doses (3 mg/lb; 6 mg/kg) example, triathletes commonly consume caffeinated gels have no significant effect on urine production in coffee or before each segment, to distribute the caffeine throughout tea drinkers. Hence, there appears to be no hydration-relat- the event rather than have a big pre-race jolt that might ed reason for athletes to avoid caffeinated beverages.
make them feel shaky and unable to concentrate. Some ath- • In 1984, caffeine was banned by the International Olympic letes delay caffeine intake until fatigue starts to appear, and Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency then they ingest 0.5-1 mg/lb (1-2 mg/kg) body weight. (WADA). But in 2004, WADA reversed the ruling. New • Caffeine’s ergogenic effect maxes out at about 200 to 250 research indicated the amount of caffeine needed to reach mg caffeine. (This is much less than previously recom- the threshold dose was detrimental to performance.
mended.) More is not better. Experiment during training to Although caffeine is no longer banned by WADA, it is on learn what amount (if any) works best for your body! the banned list for NCAA, the governing body of collegiate • Because the amount of caffeine in coffee and tea varies, sports. Collegiate athletes can be cited for doping if their elite athletes commonly use caffeine pills or commercial caffeine level is higher than 15 micrograms/ml urine. (A products to ensure the desired intake. A comparison of the normal urine caffeine level is between 1-2 micrograms).
caffeine content in 16 ounces coffee from 20 coffee venders • Youth athletes should be fully mature and fueling opti- ranged from about 60 to 260 mg. Even when the researchers mally before even considering the use of caffeine. Again, no purchased the same brand of coffee (Starbucks Breakfast amount of caffeine will compensate for a lousy sports diet. Blend) on six consecutive days, the caffeine content ranged • For even more helpful tips, read Caffeine for Sports from about 260 to 565 milligrams per 16 ounces.
Performance. The book is not a snoozer! • Research suggests the caffeine content of espresso also varies. A customer might get served 0.5 to 3.0 ounces of Boston-area sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD counsels espresso (depending on the barista's generosity) with a caf- both casual and competitive athletes. Her private practice is in feine range of 25 to 214 mg. In general, the larger venders Newton, MA; 617-795-1875). For information about her new Sports (such as Starbucks) offer a more consistent product. But this Nutrition Guidebook, 5th edition, see For online education, also see


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A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Citalopram for the Prevention of Major Depression During Treatment for Head and Neck Cancer William M. Lydiatt, MD; David Denman, MD; Dennis P. McNeilly, PsyD;Susan E. Puumula, MS; William J. Burke, MD Objective: To determine whether prophylactic treat- Results: The numbers of subjects who met predefined ment with the antidepressant citalopram h

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