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Caffeine Plus Carbs Can Improve Sports Performance and Skills


Would you like to add some carbs to your caffeine beverage before you exercise? A new study found that caffeine plus carbs can not only improve performance endurance, but that the combination has a positive impact on skill as well.

Caffeine can boost your performance and skills

Dozens of studies have analyzed the impact of caffeine on athletic and exercise performance, and overall the findings have been positive. In fact, the International Society of Sports Nutrition issued a position statement in 2010 regarding caffeine supplementation and sports performance. In part, the Society noted that

  • Caffeine is effective in the enhancement of sports performance in trained athletes who consume it in low to moderate dosages (about 3-6 mg/kg) but provides no additional benefit in higher dosages
  • Caffeine supplementation is helpful for those who engage in high-intensity exercise, including team sports
  • Caffeine can enhance vigilance during extended periods of exhaustive exercise
  • There is no scientific evidence that caffeine causes any harmful change in fluid balance that has a negative impact on performance

In this latest study, conducted at Sheffield Hallam University, Mayur Ranchordas, senior lecturer and performance nutritionist, studied performance and skill of football players who were given caffeine and carbohydrates in a beverage. Ranchordas noted that although there are many studies showing caffeine and carbohydrates improve endurance, “this study shows that there is also a positive effect on skill and performance.”

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Ranchordas is correct about the wealth of studies on caffeine and carbohydrates. A review of 21 studies conducted by researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology found that overall, combining caffeine with carbohydrates resulted in a small but significant benefit in performance over carbs alone. The reviewers did note, however, that the performance benefit provided by caffeine was less when it was added to carbohydrates than when it was added to placebo.

In the new study, Ranchordas tested participants in three different football/soccer simulations lasting 90 minutes each. Players were tested on agility, dribbling, heading, and kicking accuracy. He noted that “we found that the combination of carbohydrate and caffeine allowed players to sustain higher work intensity for the sprints, as well as improving shooting accuracy and dribbling.”

The results of this study suggest that, along with an improvement in sports performance, a combination of caffeine and carbs can also improve skills. The authors concluded that “soccer players should choose a carbohydrate caffeine drink over a carbohydrate drink to consume before kick off and at half-time.”

Conger SA et al. Does caffeine added to carbohydrate provide additional ergogenic benefit for endurance? International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 2011 Feb; 21(1): 71-84
Goldstein ER et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010 Jan 27; 7(1): 5
Sheffield Hallam University

Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons