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Caffeine and Golfers – what’s the buzz about?
By: Kellie Hogan (profile)
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Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance and found in foods and fluids such as chocolate, tea and coffee. In recent times, we have also seen the addition of caffeine to sports foods and drinks such as sports gels, chewing gums, gels, bars, and energy drinks.

Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance and found in foods and fluids such as chocolate, tea and coffee. In recent times, we have also seen the addition of caffeine to sports foods and drinks such as sports gels, chewing gums, gels, bars, and energy drinks.

Caffeine was removed from the World Anti Doping Authority’s (WADA) list of banned substances in 2004, meaning athletes who compete in sports that are bound by WADA were able to consume caffeine without bans or sanctions. This change in the code led to athletes from a vast range of sports eager to experiment with the use of caffeine as an ergogenic aid. However, an individual’s response to caffeine is highly variable and can include both positive and negative side effects.

Caffeine was originally thought to improve endurance performance by increasing the utilisation of fats from adipose tissue and in the muscle cell, thereby “sparing” glycogen stores. However, recent studies have suggested that the benefits of caffeine may lie instead in its ability to act on the central nervous system, reducing the perception of effort and fatigue as well as directly stimulating the muscle. The stimulant effect of caffeine has been well recognised. Many people reading this article have no doubt grabbed a coffee as a quick and convenient “boost” when feeling tired and fatigued. It’s the caffeine that provides this effect.

Caffeine is absorbed quite readily by most and caffeine concentration peaks tend to occur 45-90 minutes following consumption. Levels remain elevated for 2-3 hours post ingestion. While there is little clear evidence on the use of caffeine in a low impact, low intensity sport such Golf, given its positive effect on reducing fatigue and perception of effort, there may be some merit in considering trialling its use.  

Research has shown that the dosage required to achieve a performance effect appears to be about 2-3mg/kg.  It has been shown that amounts greater than this do not necessarily improve performance any further. For example, a 65kg female golf player may require 130-195mg caffeine.  Given the long nature of a golf round, consideration would need to be given as to the optimal time to take the caffeine. As an example, the golfers I have worked closely with choose to use caffeine at the 6-9 hole mark in the hope that this will give them a boost for the final third of the match. It is advisable (as with all sports nutrition interventions), to trial this strategy in a number of tournament-simulated training sessions so you can monitor the effects prior to use during a competition.

As mentioned previously, caffeine is found in a wide array of everyday food and drinks and as well as specialised sports foods and supplements. As the caffeine content can vary widely in coffees and teas, it may be worth considering using caffeine as a performance enhancing tool, to do so in a more defined, set dosage that is often found in sports foods and caffeine supplements such as No Doz or similar.

See the table below for an outline of the caffeine content of some common foods and drinks:

FOOD or DRINK

 

Serve Size

Caffeine content (mg)

Instant coffee

250mL cup

60(*)

Brewed coffee

250mL cup

80(*)

Short black/espresso coffee

1 shot

110(*)

Tea

250mL cup

30(*)

Cola soft drinks

375mL can

40

Energy drinks

250mL

80

Energy Shots

60-90mL

80-140

Sports Gel

1 sachet

0-80

Sports Bar

1 bar

0-50

No Doz

1 tablet

100

(*) The caffeine content of coffee & tea will vary markedly depending on the amount of coffee used, the duration of brewing the tea etc.

What about side effects?

Health authorities tend to discourage caffeine intakes in excess of >500mg/day. Caffeine intake can cause a mild increase in urine production. If caffeine is taken as part of a drink, some of this urine loss is obviously offset, however, those taking caffeine in supplemental form should give a small amount of consideration as part of their overall hydration strategy.  At high levels of intake, caffeine can cause increases in heart rate, tremor and in some individuals, impairment to heart function.  Some sensitive individuals may also report disruptions to sleep patterns if caffeine is taken close to sleep times. That being said, the strategic use of caffeine may also help with re setting internal body clocks following long haul international flights where the goal is to “stay awake”.

As always, if considering trialling or introducing caffeine into your routine, its best to seek advice from a qualified sports dietitian and your sports physician.

 

Kellie Hogan

Dietitian/Nutritionist APD

Advanced  Sports Dietitan

B Hlth Sci. (Nutr&Diet) (Hons)

Grad Dip. Sports Nutrition (IOC)(Hons)

For more information check out the  Sports Dietitians Australia website www.sportsdietitians.com and the Australian Institute of Sport’s website at www.ais.org.au/nutrition.

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