Updated: 2021, May 21

How Caffeine Can Help Improve Performance In Endurance Athletes?

Tons of people rely on their morning “joe” to keep them on the go and more awake, but even more so, some athletes enjoy the extra energy boost they feel after drinking a caffeinated drink prior to their workout – normally consuming some kind of “pre-workout” supplement to keep them focused and give them that boost of energy they need to start and finish their workout.

How Caffeine Can Help Improve Performance In Endurance Athletes?

Drinking a pot of coffee or consuming a scoop of pre-workout doesn’t turn us into Superman, but for those of us that need some help in the morning to get the day started or need something to keep us focused and feeling seemingly proactive; it does the trick.

There are those of you who consume a decent amount of caffeine daily where the effects have worn off, or you’ll have to consume more and more because eventually, it becomes water where it does nothing for you unless you take a higher dose compared to last time – if this happens, no longer is it working for you, which means it then works against you.

Weening yourself off caffeine is no walk around the park, you literally go through withdrawals that aren’t so fun, especially after being on caffeine for such a long period of time. It’s important to take note that caffeine has its pros and cons, but what I am going to focus on is how caffeine can be both helpful and detrimental towards endurance athletes.

Endurance athletes are classified as athletes who are training at submaximal intensity for prolonged periods of time. Some key sports would be: swimming, cycling, running, skiing, wrestling, etc. Anytime you are performing an exercise that increases endurance.

Train Muscular Endurance

Now with that being said; I am not an endurance athlete by nature. I train muscular endurance when necessary but don’t take part in sports that ONLY dedicate my time to improving my endurance.

However, I have taken pre-workout supplements prior to a workout on the days I am focusing on endurance training or cardiovascular training and have had both good and bad experiences depending on the dosage, the brand, and how my body reacts to it.

Everybody reacts to caffeine differently – especially those of us who don’t drink caffeinated beverages often such as myself. The list of pros and cons are on a individualized basis, you might agree to disagree, but the important factor is understanding that caffeine can be helpful and not so helpful for endurance athletes.


  • It may improve performance – depending on what articles or the amount of research you do, there have been case studies where it shown improvement and case studies where there were no such results. Personally, I find it depends on the amount you consume, how far in advance you consume it and how the body reacts to it because one person might say it works and another might say, it doesn’t.
  • Recent studies have shown that caffeine doesn’t start to contribute to fluid loss (dehydration) unless the average person consumes 400mg or more within 24 hours. While it is always recommended to stay hydrated throughout training, know that caffeine won’t contribute to your dehydration unless you take large doses of it.
  • Improves alertness – typically athletes feel as though they are more focused and alert


High-Intensity Athletes
  • Possible sleep deprivation, caffeine probably isn’t best before bed if you want a good night’s rest because it has shown to stay in your system for long periods of time.
  • Irritability- some people become more like this when they don’t have their caffeine fix or enough of it in the day
  • Gastrointestinal upset – some say that they typically have diarrhea after consuming caffeine, but some studies have proven that the bowel movement comes from the from the coffee itself or whatever you are drinking that has the caffeine in it.
  • Tremors and unsteadiness – some people have tremors after ingesting caffeine from pre-workouts
  • If athletes use it as an ergogenic aid, then they should be cautioned to avoid routine use because the effects can ware off because of your body being used it over time which then means the possibility of having to up your dose to meet those same effects again
  • Withdrawal symptoms – if someone is quitting caffeine, they have to consider the possibility of withdrawal symptoms; usually a headache and moodiness.
  • It can contribute to dehydration if consumed in larger doses.
  • Shows little to no effects for high-intensity athletes (sprinters)

The pros look a whole lot smaller than the cons list, but that doesn’t mean caffeine is overall bad for you, it means that everybody will react to it differently which in turn means that some may experience the good and some might experience the bad.

There are some things to keep in mind when consuming caffeine because I find the most important factor with anything is to use it in moderation. Most people abuse something when it works “wonders” for them in their sports or activities.

Just to name a few other things:

  • USE IN MODERATION! This is seriously important because having too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing
  • Talk to professional about how much caffeine would be appropriate for your sport
  • If you are using it as an ergogenic aid, cycle on and off of it, don’t use it all the time every day, it should be used sparingly.
  • Stay hydrated with other fluids besides caffeine, drink water and keep your fluids maintained because loss of fluids causes potential harm to your performance
  • Stay hydrated with other fluids
  • Have a backup plan when suffering from withdrawals, because the point is wanting to ween yourself off and that’s not easy to do; you don’t want to fall back into the habit again. It would be a good idea to have a support system and find other non-caffeinated beverages that might be of interest to you.
  • If you are new to pre-workouts, do a tolerance test beforehand so that you know whether or not your body takes to the product safely.
  • It is best to take the caffeine 1-2 hours before your event to be sure it doesn’t have adverse effects

All in all, caffeine is a useful ingredient depending on how it reacts to your body- always take into consideration that not everyone will experience the same pleasures. Don’t depend on it to make you a better endurance athlete, use it to hopefully aid you in your competition or training. The final verdict is caffeine depends on the person and dosage.

Image Credits
Feature Image Credit: shutterstock.com
Inpost Image Credit: wallethub.com

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Shay-lon Moss

Shay-lon is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer who currently resides in Columbus, Ohio. She competes in competitive powerlifting, a pro

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