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Benefits of caffeine for short distance events

Chloe McLeod is an Advanced Sports Dietitian and Co-Owner of Nutrition Consultancy Health & Performance Collective. 


Caffeine is a well-known ergogenic aid and is used widely in the world of sports nutrition due to it’s safety and efficacy in enhancing exercise performance, including short-distance events.   

How can caffeine help in short-distance events?

There are various ways in which caffeine may improve exercise performance in short-distance events.  The main effect is likely to be achieved via impact on the Central Nervous System (CNS).  This impact may reduce the perception of effort, making exercise seem ‘easier’.  Other potential benefits of caffeine include increased alertness/concentration, improved endurance, and reduced fatigue.

What form of caffeine is best for short-distance events?

For optimal performance, carbohydrate consumption prior to sports events lasting up to 90 minutes is recommended.  However, consumption of additional carbohydrate during the event may not be necessary. Gels are designed to top up your glycogen stores that get depleted during longer runs and are made up mostly of simple sugars which aren’t usually necessary for shorter distances. One gel pack will usually contain between 90 – 110 calories compared to approximatel 1 calorie in a Revvies strip. For this reason, opting for a caffeine strip like Revvies rather than a caffeinated sports gel is ideal in order to receive the benefits of the caffeine without the additional carbohydrates.

What dosage of caffeine is recommended?

Effective dosage of caffeine varies between individuals and requires some trial and error.  Earlier research conducted used doses of caffeine as high as >6mg/kg body weight, so for a 70kg individual this would equate to a whopping 420mg caffeine.  Fortunately, we know from recent research that lower doses of caffeine (1-3mg/kg body weight) can provide similar benefits with fewer negative side effects.  Therefore, a dosage of 1-3mg/kg body weight is ideal prior to short-distance events which would equate to 70-210mg for a 70kg individual.  Revvies currently come in a 40mg strip, with a 100mg strip to be launched soon.  The 100mg strips will be perfect for those with a higher body weight or individuals who lean more toward the 2-3mg caffeine/kg body weight dosage. 

Tips for including caffeine prior to sports events

  • To reach peak concentration, consume caffeine one hour prior to event. One of the great things about Revvies is they have been shown to reach the blood stream after 15 minutes, making them perfect to have closer to the start, or during the event.
  • Stick with a dosage of 1-3mg/kg body weight for optimal benefits and minimised side-effects.
  • Trial use of caffeine prior to event to determine your best dose, particularly if not a habitual caffeine user.
  • If not a habitual caffeine user, start off with a lower dosage and increase as required. Revvies 40mg strips are a great option for those starting out.
  • Peak concentrations of caffeine should be maintained for 3-4 hours, so additional caffeine during short-distance events is not required and may lead to unwanted side-effects.

By Chloe McLeod

(Photo by Chander R on Unsplash)