Caffeine assisted cycling


Dear Roulers,
I can’t imagine going for a ride without having a good coffee before and after the event. I would class myself as a functional addict, although my wife may dispute the “functional” part of that description.  Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant of the methylxanthine class of psychoactive drugs. It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug and unlike most other psychoactive drugs, it is completely legal.  The actual caffeine molecule looks the picture below.

caffeine molecule

Regardless, it’s the magical properties of caffeine, to ward off tiredness, that makes it the average office workers and cyclist’s best friend. It’s also been proven assist fat oxidation and reduce glycogen depletion. Both of which are very useful for the long distance cyclist.

The downside is that it is a diuretic and can cause dehydration. For that reason, it’s been treated suspiciously by anti-doping authorities who regard it as a masking agent for other performance enhancing drugs. Too much of the stuff results in overstimulation with anxiety and rapid heart heat. So it’s worth not overdoing it. While the UCI don’t ban the drug, the IOC still do.

I can remember Alex Watson, the Australian pentathlete, who found himself turfed out the Seoul Olympics in 1988 for imbibing way too much of the stuff and the tough battle he had to clear his name.  At present the UCI allows up to 12 micro grams of caffeine in a litre of urine. WADA has been lobbying UCI to ban caffeine, which no doubt irritate many cyclists. To get above that level, you would need to have about 6 cups of instant coffee or 10 expressos to hit that level.

So for those of you that are serious competitive cyclists, keeping an eye on your intake is a sensible approach, lest sharing the same fate at Alex Watson. Here’s a list of drinks that contains caffeine that a cyclist should be aware of:

Source Milligrams per a cup
Ground Coffee    80 – 90
Instant Coffee    60
Decaffeinated Coffee      3
Tea    40
Can of Cola    40
Caffeine Pills    100 to 200

I haven’t bothered with the energy drinks that may or may not give you wings, as I don’t consider those to be drinkable 😉

Happy coffee drinking and cycling