Athletes seek to gain performance advantages over their competition by using two common energy sources, caffeine and carbohydrate. Which one is the better choice?
A recent Gatorade study found that 200 milligrams of caffeine (approximately the amount in four cans of soda) taken prior to endurance exercise improves performance. But, the benefits of caffeine come with baggage, according to Dr. JohnEric Smith, senior scientist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. “Caffeine is tricky because it improves performance sometimes,” he says. “[It] gives you a hype, but you end up with a crash.”
The problem stems from the fact that caffeine provides a false sense of energy. True energy is derived from calories, which caffeine, unlike carbs, does not provide.
Carbs, your body’s primary fuel source, are broken down into simple sugars (e.g., sucrose, glucose, fructose and galactose), which are absorbed by muscles and used as energy.
Although caffeine can help performance to some extent, sustained energy requires carbohydrates. Make sure to take in carbs through sports drinks and foods (e.g., pasta, cereal, bread) throughout the season to keep your energy levels at an all-time high.