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  1. #1
    Epic eater
    Join Date
    Oct 2005

    How much caffeine to you consume on a ride? (long, boring post)

    First off I have no desire to get into the philosophical discussion about whether caffeine is a PED (performance enhancing drug), should it be tested, regulated, banned, bla bla bla. All I'm curious about is how much do you all consume and does it work?

    My own experience has basically been "holy smokes it works!". I never take any caffeine on a daily basis (drink no coffee, no soft drinks) but before a ride a few years ago I drank half of a 5-hr energy and was shocked with how energetic I felt, drank the other half later in the ride and promptly posted by best time ever on those trails. Ever since then when I want to go hard I'll either drink a 5-hr energy or take a caffeine pill (200mg) 30-60 minutes before the ride and usually feel surprisingly good.

    The situation where I get vague on is after 1, 2, 3, 4+ hours on the bike...should I take more caffeine? The gels and bars I'm eating may or may not have caffeine in them so I've been cautious and never taken another hit (so to speak) of caffeine with a pill or another 5-hr energy later in the ride.

    I know how long they say caffeine stays in your system but my guess is they did not come up with those durations from people exercising, sweating profusely with a heart-rate hovering near 175 for 3+ hours. After an effort like that is seems unlikely to me that any caffeine would be in your system still, but of-course I don't actually know.

    Also in the caffeine testing I have read about they usually come up with some max performance gain amount, in the 'Get Fast' book it mentions 3-6 mg per kilogram of body weight. In lab tests anything over that did not produce any better performance. I'm curious about these numbers because they are assuming that the body weight of someone tells us how much caffeine they should take, and maybe it does but I'm skeptical of that. For example, I am a rather fat guy (~230 lbs), I know it, I have a good 20-30 lbs of fat I could/should/damnit-will lose. However, does that fat mean I really should take more caffeine than someone who weighs 200 lbs, has the same weight of bones and organs and the same amount of muscle as me, just has less fat than me?

    It seems to me that the caffeine is going to be absorbed and used by the active tissues and such in the body, which does not mean the fat, at least I wouldn't think so. I have always heard the fat storage procedure is a bit of a put-it-there-and-forget-it function of the body, so while the fat may absorb some caffeine just because it's circulating in the blood stream, the blood flow to fat reserves is quite small I think and thus it doesn't seem like to me it would factor into the discussion about how much caffeine you would need to get to some specific performance level.

    I might be radically over simplying this but it seems like to me the correct amount of caffeine that would be recommended would be based on your "running" body, meaning your body weight minus the fat stores, as those fat stores wouldn't really factor into it. For me the 3-6 mg per kilogram of body weight would be 313 - 627mg of caffeine, which is a holy-smokes-a-lot in my opinion and not an amount I would likely take, at least not near the upper end of that.

    Curious what others have done...I am always trying to quantify why I did good on a ride or why I felt a certain way. Whether it was because I ate X the night before then Y before I went out riding and Z on the ride...or if it was none of those and just the fact that I drank some caffeine on the way to the trail and that trumped everything.

    Ideas, thoughts, other experiences?


  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Nubster's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    I think studies show that around 200 mg a few hours before the start of the activity worked best.

    Caffeine and the athlete

    I've tried it and it seems to help. Thing is, I never remember to take it before riding so I don't do it often. I need to start doing it when I ride fasted to help kick the fat burning so I can drop more of this damn weight.

  3. #3
    Reputation: Ridnparadise's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Be cautious with caffeine especially on a regular basis. Regular high dosing, whether in pills or energy drinks can cause arrhythmias and in some individuals also heart failure. Heart failure can develop slowly and be well compensated up until the time it reaches threshold. At that time active sport is gone, maybe forever and you can start concentrating on what type of defibrillator-pacemaker you need, rather than what bike components make you faster.

    Medically speaking, the concept of taking performance enhancers before losing 10-15kg of weight is like a diabetic justifying eating anything because they are on medication. It is misguided and in the case of caffeine is going to put more stress on an already compromised cardiovascular system. Performance speaking, caffeine is going to be a distant second to weight loss in the OP's case.

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    I react to small doses of anything so over the past I've used caffeine tablets (Jet-Alert brand). Each tab is 200 mg and I never do more than 1/2 a tab before rides (I take them almost every day they help focus at work).
    On rides they help a lot some times I'll forget and I don't have focus or stamina. On a long ride nearing 3 hours or loads of climbing I'll nibble more.

    In short I love that stuff and even after many years have not noticed much of a increase in tolerance so my dose has stayed the same.

  5. #5
    I Tried Them ALL... SuperModerator
    Reputation: Cayenne_Pepa's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    I drink 1.5 cups of strong French Roast and a small Red Bull...and I'm nowhere near yawning my way up that steep climb. In fact, I can ride for 3hrs on an empty stomach
    (pure, fat burn).
    "This is a male-dominated forum... there will be lots of Testosterone sword-shaming here" ~ Kenfucius

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Reputation: jrastories's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    This is interesting, I have seen lots of things saying that caffeine will improve performance and I have seen everything from 60 to 80mg independent of body weight and from this discussion I did find the 3-6mg/kg body weight. But any of this seems to be lacking comprehensive studies. On top of that no mechanism has been found to answer the question of how caffeine affects performance, hence why the IOC has not banned caffeine.

    Anecdotal: for myself I find it helps, a coffee before a morning ride, and the gels with added caffeine do seem to help me.
    Rocky Element
    My Attempt at a Blog

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