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?
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