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New research boosts case for caffeine in sports performance

By Nathan Gray , 15-Dec-2011

Would you like carbohydrates with your coffee sir?
Would you like carbohydrates with your coffee sir?

The addition of caffeine to carbohydrate could help to boost athletes’ performance of skilled tasks in addition to boosting endurance, according to UK researchers.

The new study, led by Mayur Ranchordas of Sheffield Hallam University, investigated the effects of carbohydrate and caffeine, both individually and synergistically, on sports performance.

The findings of the research, presented at the International Sports Science & Sports Medicine Conference 2011, reported that supplementation with carbohydrate and caffeine resulted in significant improvements in both skill performance and endurance compared to placebo, during a simulated soccer activity.

Speaking with NutraIngredients, Ranchordas explained that although it is well known that carbohydrate can improve endurance, and caffeine has been shown to improve alertness and skill, his findings suggest that co-consumption can have added benefits.

“Taking caffeine with a carbohydrate in a drink form could enhance the skill component as well as endurance component,” said Ranchordas, adding that taking the two together “could lead to a synergistic effect.”

"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 during simulated soccer activity,” he said.

Study details

Ranchordas and his team carried out studies on footballers using caffeine and carbohydrates combined in a drink. In the study, they evaluated the effect of co-ingesting a carbohydrate and caffeine drink (6.4% carbohydrate plus 16 mg caffeine) by comparing it to the effects of a carbohydrate drink (6.4% carbohydrate) alone and a placebo of flavoured drink with no nutritional value.

Eight university-standard soccer players ingested the drinks over a course of three assessments, in a double-blind randomized cross-over design – with each trial separated by 7 days.

The test – a simulation of a soccer match – lasted 90 minutes, and was made up of 10 six minute exercise blocks followed by soccer-specific skills tests ; testing agility, dribbling, heading and kicking accuracy.

“The test was designed to mimic a football game where the participants had to carry out multiple repeated sprints, dribble the ball around cones and shoot accurately,” explained Ranchordas.

The researcher said that whilst the carbohydrate plus caffeine drink had no benefits on endurance levels over carbohydrate alone, the combination drink did allow players to sustain higher work intensities. This was demonstrated by elevated blood lactate levels.

The results also revealed significant improvements in performance of skill tests when caffeine was taken in conjunction with carbohydrate.

Ranchordas said the findings suggest that, for athletes competing in team sports where endurance and skill are important factors, “ingesting a carbohydrate and caffeine drink, as opposed to just a carbohydrate drink, may significantly enhance performance.”

“Our findings suggest that soccer players should choose a carbohydrate caffeine drink over a carbohydrate drink to consume before kick off and at half-time," he added.

Source: British Journal of Sports Medicine

Abstract only submission, doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2011-090606.17

“Effects of carbohydrate and caffeine co-ingestion on a reliable simulated soccer-specific protocol”

Authors: M.K. Ranchordas, P. Pattison

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