Coffee may hydrate athletes just like water: Researcher

By Anna Bonar contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Caffeine, Coffee

Caffeine does not have a diuretic effect on regular coffee drinkers and is safe to use, says sports nutrition researcher and consultant in elite sport.

Caffeine was traditionally known as diuretic contributing to increased urine output and leading to dehydration, but latest research​ conducted at the University of Birmingham showed that it may have the same hydrating effects as water. 

“We found that if you have a regular coffee you can build up a tolerance to some of the diuretic effects of caffeine,”​ said Sophie Killer, a doctoral researcher in exercise metabolism and performance nutrition at Loughborough University.

“Perhaps we don’t have to worry too much about athletes drinking coffee if they are regular coffee drinkers, as the chances of it having a detrimental effect on their fluid balance is actually very small,” ​she added.

Safe and well-researched 

Our expert encouraged all of her athletes to at least try caffeine and see if it had a positive effect on them, as admittedly it didn’t have the same effect on everyone.    

Sophie Killer

“It is a popular supplement and something that most athletes will be using in competition. It’s a relatively safe supplement if it’s used properly. It’s part of a lot of athletes’ diets anyway through coffee consumption,”​ said Killer.

“There is a lot of research that shows that is it actually having beneficial effect on performance whereas for a lot of supplements the research isn’t as rigorous, so we are less confident in using them within sport,”​ she added. 

Unlikely to be replaced 

Caffeine was one of the few stimulants not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). It had been removed from the list of prohibited substances in 2004, however, remained on the ‘watch list’ in case an athlete produced  usually high level of it in the urine sample. 

“There are various stimulants that have similar effects on cognitive functioning, all currently banned by WADA. I don’t think coffee will be replaced by a non-banned substance,”​ said Killer.

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