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Caffeine: A few tips for triathlon

Nov 17, 2021

Hello Triathletes,

Love it or wary of it, today we are talking about caffeine!

Have you ever drunk coffee before a training session, or a race?

Do you NEED caffeine to start the day with a sense of humour!?

Have you looked at sports gels and wondered why they contain caffeine?

Have you ever considered it a performance aid? (also called an ergogenic aid)

Keep reading, we discover how to work out if your 'pick me ups' are actually picking you up!

So take 2 people; one drinks caffeine all day, before they go to bed, and seem fine. The second drinks one coffee in the morning and they are done for the day, if they drink one more they become anxious, jittery and irritable. That is all down to your genetics, and you can be a fast metaboliser or a slow metaboliser of caffeine. This has already been decided for you!

If you are a fast metaboliser of caffeine, you can use it to enhance performance. This tends to be in situations such as time trials, so big a effort of high intensity. 

If you're a slow metaboliser, it's likely it won’t have much effect. If anything, it could make you more anxious pre-event.

The other fascinating thing to know is that caffeine clears blood sugars. So if you had a caffeine pill, an espresso shot or a sugar free red bull, you may find even though you are good with caffeine, and you get the benefit of the caffeine, it's closely followed by a jittery feeling where you go the other way, because you have cleared your blood sugar rapidly and ended up hypoglycaemic (which can mean you feel suddenly weak and shaky).

So in an Ironman or 70.3 they often have Coke at aid stations, and that’s great as its caffeine and sugar so this doesn’t happen.

So next time you're out on a long-ish run where your blood sugar is lower, before you finish the run try a caffeine based jelly sweet like a Cliff Block and see if it gives you a boost, or if it makes you anxious or even feeling more tired than before. That way you know if you are likely to be able to handle it as a performance enhancer in a race or if you should steer clear.  

It also turns out caffeinated drinks are not a diuretic. It is more the volume of fluid when you drink hot drinks like coffee and tea that makes you want to go for a wee all the time!

One last thing to mention, if you are going through peri menopause and you are having hot flashes, it's advisable to stop taking caffeine in any form because it is such a strong vasoconstrictor (constriction of bloody vessels, therefore a ride in blood pressure), and then if you're vasoconstricting you're holding in heat and then that can trigger a hot flash. Not ideal for training or racing when you are already raising your temperature.

Well that’s all for now on caffeine, I'll be sure to come back with more quick topics on staying healthy and preparing for a killer 2022 race season!


Train safe, stay classy