Power Up Your Bike Ride with Caffeine

4 July 2020
Connie Packer

Mountain Cycling

Have you tried to buy a bike recently?! I’ve been wanting a bike for a few years. And, with quarantine, my children wanted me to ride with them.

Bikes are a hot commodity this summer.  With many local stores sold out of basic bikes, we ended up buying an old rusted bike. And we rebuilt it with a new chain, tires, paint, etc.

My preteen daughters had growth spurts this winter, and were needing bikes too. Luckily, my husband is savvy with the classifieds. And he got us all outfitted with functional bikes. Yes, now we parade down the local neighborhood trails.

Many things have changed in this interesting time of COVID. I hear many studies were suspended due to university campuses and research labs closing to reduce virus transmission. Luckily, studies are typically submitted for publication months before publication. So, we still have studies demonstrating how caffeine and omega 3 supplements can enhance physical performance!

Caffeine Enhances Mentally Fatigued Performance

New Study: Caffeine Improved Cycling Trial Performance in Mentally Fatigued Cyclists, Regardless of Alterations in Prefrontal Cortex Activation

Because caffeine has been shown to enhance both cognitive function and physical performance, these researchers looked at physical performance after being cognitively drained.

After completing a baseline 20 km of cycling, twelve recreational cyclists repeated the ride after completing an intense cognitive test. The mentally fatigued ride was completed after taking a placebo, and again after taking caffeine.

The participants were blinded as to which pill they received. The supplement contained 5 mg caffeine per kg bodyweight. And it was given before starting the cognitive test, about 50 minutes before starting to cycle.

When mentally fatigued, the bikers were slower and exhibited reduced mean work. They also had increased mental fatigue while riding, slowed reaction time, reduced motivation, lower emotional arousal, and greater prefrontal cortex theta waves.

While the placebo rides were faster than the control rides, the caffeine enhanced rides were even faster. They exhibited greater mean work, and had fewer theta waves than the placebo rides. The rating of perceived exertion to power output ratio was lower with caffeine than with placebo. Affect, motivation, and emotional arousal were also higher in the caffeine enhanced group.

Women and Men Benefit Similarly from Caffeine

New Study: Coffee Ingestion Improves 5 Km Cycling Performance in Men and Women by a Similar Magnitude.

As studies have shown how caffeine enhances physical performance, it is notable that the majority of these studies have only involved men. This study compared the differences in caffeine blood levels and performance between men and women.

The participants included nineteen highly active men, and nineteen highly active women taking birth control and in days 5-8 or 19-22 of their menstrual cycle. The participants completed a 5 km cycling ride after taking nothing (a control), a placebo, or coffee providing 3 mg caffeine per kg bodyweight. Not surprisingly, the men had higher body mass and VO2 max, and lower percentage body fat, than the women.

The caffeine ingestion increased salivary caffeine levels and resulted in improved times compared to control and placebo. In fact, both men and women improved their cycle times by 9 seconds compared to the control, and 6 seconds compared to the placebo. This study suggests that women had similar improvements in performance as men, at least during certain points in their menstrual cycles.

Omega 3 Enhances Exercise

New Study: Eicosapentaenoic Acid-Rich Fish Oil Supplementation Inhibits the Decrease in Concentric Work Output and Muscle Swelling of the Elbow Flexors

Because omega 3 tends to reduce inflammation and influence energy metabolism, this study sought to identify the benefits of omega 3 supplementation on muscles.

Sixteen untrained men took a placebo or an omega 3 supplement (600 mg EPA and 260 mg DHA) for 8 weeks. Then participants performed maximal concentric exercises of the elbow flexors. Concentric exercises are known for causing an inflammatory response that may cause muscle soreness and decreased range of motion.

The researchers found that the supplemented group had greater work output throughout the 5 sets of maximal concentric exercises and greater range of motion immediately after the exercise. The authors concluded that the supplement had “positive benefits for the untrained people and can be applied to obtain higher endurance exercise performance.”

Power Up You Bike Ride

Seriously, if you haven’t ridden a bike in a while, I highly recommend you consider getting on one, even if it means borrowing one from a friend. It’s a lot of fun. And if you want to make more of your riding, you might consider taking some caffeine an hour before. Also, there are so many reasons to consider daily omega 3: potentially reduced inflammation after exercise is just one. 

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