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Caffeine in sport: the ideal dose at the right time is important

It is no secret that caffeine can enhance performance in sports. Anyone who has ever drunk a strong coffee, a cola or energy drink containing caffeine before a training session or competition can probably confirm the stimulating effect from their own experience.

Caffeine is a natural substance and is one of the oldest stimulants and medicines in the world. In sport, as countless studies have shown, caffeine increases athletic endurance performance and improves concentration and attention in decisive phases of a competition. The Swiss Society for Sports Nutrition SSNS lists caffeine as a supplement with the highest effectiveness in category «A».

Sprint and endurance athletes in particular regularly resort to caffeine, whether before the starting gun or during the race. In order for the use of caffeine to be beneficial in the end, it is important that it is taken in a way that is tailored to the individual situation. The SSNS considers the following dosages in sport to be appropriate:

• 3-6 mg per kg body weight 1 h before exercise
• 3-6 mg per kg in doses of 0.3 - 1.0 mg per kg body weight distributed over the entire duration of the competition (e.g. 50 mg for 75 kg persons = 0.7 mg/kg every 1-2 h)
• 1-2 mg per kg body weight at the latest 30 min before the end of the competition.

These are considerable amounts. For an athlete weighing 60 kg, this means a dosage of around 180-360 mg of caffeine before a competition! Because presumably no athlete wants to start a competition with half a litre of coke or three espressos in their stomach, the nutrition industry has brought so-called caffeine shots onto the market. They guarantee a precise dosage, are practical to use and come in different flavours so that even people who don't like coffee can benefit from them.

The Swiss sports nutrition manufacturer SPONSER® has two caffeine shots in its range that are appreciated and used by athletes at all performance levels. ACTIVATOR 200 delivers 200 mg of caffeine per 25 ml of liquid and comes in the flavours «Cola-Lemon» and «Fruit Boost». The vegan shot uses caffeine from various sources: Guarana, Mate, green tea extract as well as free caffeine. Unlike other sources, the effect is not only fast-acting, but also lasts up to four hours.

Recommended intake of ACTIVATOR 200

Sprint and interval performance
In sprint and interval sports, athletes benefit from increased concentration, attention and adrenaline activity. It is advisable to take it long enough before the performance, about 30-60 min before, in order to cover the optimal period of action.

Competitions of 1-3 h duration
Starting with competitions lasting several hours, an increased endurance performance is also evident due to an improved utilisation of fatty acids for energy supply. Since the highest concentration of caffeine in the blood occurs about 45-60 minutes after ingestion and levels off again during the following 2-3 hours, it is also important to plan the intake according to the individual situation. In this way, the maximum effect can be achieved directly from the start or, for example, specifically during the second half of the competition or the final phase.

Competitions of 12-24 hours
One possible application would be to take one ACTIVATOR 200 with its 200 mg of caffeine per ampoule every 3 hours, or a little more or less depending on body weight. If you already have experience with caffeine and tolerate it well, you can start right from the beginning. Otherwise, it is advisable to wait a little longer and, for example, to use the ampoules at 5-6 hour intervals. Or then only selectively and specifically about 30 minutes before performance-critical phases such as at night or in good time before expected drops in performance.

Several days and ultra events
Here you can follow the same recommendations as for 12-24 hours. However, care should be taken to ensure sufficient distance (at least 4 h before) between any caffeine intake and sleep breaks.