Caffeine has long had well-known stimulant properties. Discovered in the early 19th century as a chemical compound found in coffee, it acts as a psychotropic stimulant. It is found in many plants and is sometimes called theine, guaranine or mateine, depending on its origin. In low doses, caffeine can be beneficial for athletes. Whatever your sport, you can consume quantities of caffeine without fear. However, excessive consumption can lead to serious health problems.
Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of caffeine when used to improve sporting performance in running or training. Let’s look at the benefits of a caffeinated sports gel.
What is caffeine ?
Caffeine is an alkaloid found in coffee, tea, chocolate and certain flavourings and extracts, including cola, guarana and yerba mate. Caffeine is not generally synthesised, as it is already available in large quantities as a by-product of decaffeination. However, it can be synthesised from dimethylurea and malonic acid. This synthetic (non-natural) caffeine, found in colas and energy drinks, is not recommended.
The effects of caffeine on the body
It has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system, acting on neurotransmitters to speed up nerve activity and facilitate the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream. This hormone release accelerates the heart rate, which is why caffeine is not recommended for people with heart disease or sensitive heart systems. Studies have shown that caffeine can increase attention, improve cognitive functions and have beneficial effects on health. For athletes, caffeine consumption can increase concentration and alertness and delay the feeling of fatigue, which can improve sporting performance. Improvements have been observed in runners, cyclists and endurance sports, as well as in short, intense efforts such as a cycling sprint or the last few hundred metres of a marathon. Identical effects have been observed during short, intense and repeated efforts, such as in ball sports or team sports like basketball, handball, football or rugby.
To achieve these effects, you need to take in between 2 and 5mg of caffeine per kilo of body weight. For a man weighing 80kg, this corresponds to a dosage of between 160 and 400mg. However, studies show that an athlete will already feel positive effects at doses of 50 to 100mg. However, the ideal dosage will vary greatly from one person to another, depending in particular on their level of addiction to caffeine, their build, the intensity of the effort and genetic differences.
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the recommended daily amount of caffeine should not exceed 400mg for a healthy adult man, or around 7 to 8 espressos! For women, the limit is more like 300mg a day, or between 5 and 6 espressos. Of course, it is not recommended for people with heart disease, pregnant women or children. By law, all products containing caffeine must indicate this on their packaging.
What foods contain caffeine ?
- A 100g bar of 100% cocoa dark chocolate for pastries contains 240mg of caffeine.
- A 150ml cup of espresso coffee contains 80mg on average, as the type of coffee used and the method used to prepare it can vary enormously.
- A 250ml cup of green tea contains 40mg, while black tea contains 70mg. Herbal tea does not contain any.
- A 250ml can of Redbull contains 80mg, while a 250ml glass of Coca-Cola contains just 24mg.
- Yerba maté – a traditional drink of the Guaraní Amerindians – is thought to be a natural alternative to coffee. The leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis tree contain an average of 1% caffeine, less than coffee but more than tea.
- Guarana, a South American plant whose fruit resembles coffee beans, is highly prized for its caffeine content, Guaranine. It is generally consumed in capsules or powders used as an ingredient in recipes for food supplements and chewing gum.
- Sportsmen and women generally consume caffeine in their energy gels, which can contain between 25mg and 100mg per 30g to 50g tube, depending on the brand.
Table of foods containing the most caffeine :
The benefits of using caffeine in sports nutrition :
For a long time, caffeine was on the list of doping products. But since 2004, this has no longer been the case. The decision was taken by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). However, athletes continue to be monitored and controlled. The threshold set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is 12mg/ml. This is equivalent to drinking 4 large coffees in less than 2 hours.
- Improved physical performance : according to the results of research by a group of kinesiology researchers at the University of Georgia in the United States, caffeine is capable of enhancing sporting performance by increasing muscle contraction capacity.
- Increased concentration and alertness. This is crucial at the start of and during any sporting activity. For example, you can see it on the faces of athletes at the start of a sprint race. Caffeine can help athletes because it promotes the release of excitatory neurotransmitters. This has a positive effect on memory over a short period of time. Caffeine helps athletes to concentrate and pay attention. It is also highly prized by tennis and golf players.
- Increased metabolism and fat burning : Caffeine can stimulate the metabolism, which helps burn fat and aid weight loss. Research has shown that athletes who drink coffee before their workout burn up to 15% more calories than those who don’t. The effect continues for several hours after exercise. The effect continues for several hours after exercise. It also acts as an appetite suppressant, very useful for athletes seeking to control their weight as in martial arts or combat sports.
- Reduced fatigue and improved endurance : Caffeine can improve endurance by delaying fatigue. This reduces the perception of effort and can enable athletes to maintain high levels of effort for longer periods – a plus for endurance sports. Caffeinated products are essential for races lasting several days, such as the ultra trail (UTMB, Grand raid de la Réunion…) where athletes spend one or two nights outdoors with little or no sleep.
- Improved breathing. Caffeine is thought to have a bronchodilator effect, making breathing easier, particularly for asthmatics.
- Positive effect on intestinal transit. Caffeine fights constipation by promoting good digestion. So it’s excellent news for sportsmen and women who take part in endurance races such as trail running, marathons or cyclosportives.
- It also acts as a painkiller, alleviating headaches and migraines. It can be taken as a supplement to paracetamol in doses prescribed by your doctor.
Focus on Mulebar caffeinated gels
The Mulebar range of energy gels includes 5 flavours, two of which are caffeinated. Their highly fluid texture means that they are quickly absorbed by the body and have an effect within 5 to 10 minutes of absorption.
Mulebar lemon ginger energy gel and ecorefill
With 50mg of caffeine from natural Guarana, this 37g lemon gel is at the upper end of the market. It can be used in the middle of a race, for example around the 20th kilometre of a marathon or before climbing a mountain pass by bike.
It is recommended to consume it in 2 or 3 doses with a little water to remove the sugar from the mouth. The cap on the tube is really easy to reseal – it’s the only one on the market !
Our 5 eco-refills (one per flavour) allow you to refill the energy gel tubes once they’ve been rinsed out with hot water. A great way to reduce the use of single-use plastic. We also offer 60ml silicone vials, resealable with a non-drip valve, containing the equivalent of 2 tubes of 37g gel. These vials can be washed and reused hundreds of times. At the request of large consumers, we have developed a 150ml soft flask (equivalent to 5 tubes of gel) so that you can take more with you without disposable plastic. One eco-refill contains 12 doses of gel or enough to make 6 litres of diluted drink. It costs 33% less than 12 tubes of gel bought individually. Saving money while doing good for the planet is pretty rare, isn’t it?
Agave syrup, brown rice syrup, lemon juice concentrate, natural guarana extract, Himalayan pink salt crystals, natural ginger flavouring.
- Brown rice syrup, with its high glycaemic index, provides the immediate energy you’re looking for in a gel.
- Agave syrup provides natural fructose with its low glycaemic index (15).
Lemon juice concentrate adds freshness without acidity.
- Ginger extract contributes to a normal immune system
- Guarana contributes to fat metabolism
- Pink Himalayan salt is very rich in trace elements, particularly iron, which helps blood regeneration and improves circulation. It helps to maintain healthy lungs and improve respiratory function. It helps to restore blood pH (acid-base balance). It acts on gastric reflux problems.
Nutritional informations :
Mulebar coffee energy gel and ecorefill
With 100mg of caffeine from coffee concentrate and natural Guarana, it’s the most caffeinated gel on the market. A real kick from the mule to propel you to the finish line. It’s perfect for night races, so you’ll be sure to keep an eye on you all night long! Gringos who love coffee will be delighted by its powerful flavour, with very little hint of sugar.
Note that Mulebar gel tubes can be reused after rinsing with hot water, by refilling them with their eco-refill bottles.
Brown rice syrup, malted barley syrup, agave syrup, coffee concentrate, natural guarana extract, Himalayan pink salt crystals.
- Brown rice syrup and malted barley syrup, with their high glycaemic indexes, provide the immediate energy required in a gel.
- Agave syrup provides natural fructose with its low glycaemic index (15).
- Coffee and Guarana provide natural caffeine (100mg per gel) for less fatigue during exercise and many other benefits to be discovered in this article on the benefits of caffeine for sport.
- Pink Himalayan salt is very rich in trace elements, particularly iron, which helps to regenerate the blood and improve circulation. It helps to maintain healthy lungs and improve respiratory function. It helps to restore blood pH (acid-base balance). It acts on gastric reflux problems.
Nutritional informations :
With all these qualities, you’d almost think that caffeine was a miracle product, essential for all sporting activities. But beware, it’s not all magic: it also has side effects on health, especially when large quantities are taken.
The disadvantages of misusing caffeine :
Regular consumption of caffeine leads to dependence and better tolerance. This means that a higher quantity is needed to obtain the same effects. Excessive caffeine consumption can lead to undesirable side effects such as :
- Sleep disorders, insomnia : Caffeine is a stimulant, which is why it is generally recommended not to consume it at the end of the day if you want to get a good night’s sleep.
- Anxiety, irritability : Studies have shown that caffeine can increase anxiety symptoms in some people, particularly those predisposed to comorbid anxiety disorders such as generalised anxiety or panic disorders.
- Tremors, heart palpitations and arterial hypertension : characterised by a persistent rise in blood pressure.
- Digestive problems (increased diuresis, nausea or vomiting) linked to magnesium and calcium losses and acid secretion in the stomach. This can even lead to ulcers.
- Muscle cramps. Drinking plenty of water is also recommended to avoid the dehydration that can result from caffeine consumption.
Conclusion of the benefits of a caffeinated sports gel
The use of caffeine in sports nutrition has undeniable advantages in terms of improving physical performance, increasing metabolism and endurance. However, it is essential to take into account the potential drawbacks, such as dependence, tolerance and undesirable side-effects. When consumed in the doses recommended by sports nutritionists or doctors, caffeine has more benefits than undesirable effects.