Can caffeine boost sports performance? Research shows that caffeine is ergogenic—it targets the brain and nervous system to resist fatigue during a workout to increase performance. The key is using it correctly and not overdoing it, which can lead to jitters, anxiety, a racing heart, and trouble sleeping at night.
The performance benefits max out at 3 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight. That means a 150-pound person could have around 200 milligrams of caffeine before or during activity to postpone fatigue. (That’s about the amount in a 16-ounce coffee from a cafe, or two small cups of homemade, regular-strength coffee or tea.) Not everyone responds the same way, so test lesser amounts first.
Also factor in any earlier intake. Caffeine peaks in the bloodstream in 10 to 30 minutes, then is reduced by half within four hours (also keep in mind that it’s a mild diuretic). If you had a morning coffee, you may only need a little bit to get a boost without side effects.
Expert: Jennifer Ketterly, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, is the director of sports nutrition at the University of Georgia. She played varsity basketball at Cornell University as an undergraduate.