Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Morning Cuppa: Caffeine for Performance Enhancement

by Coach Matt Gawors

Caffeine is a ubiquitous drug that can enhance the body’s chemical processes. When most people think of caffeine, a picture of a mornin’ cupoa joe pops into their mind. When most think of the use of caffeine, so often it is a substance to get jolt of energy in the sleepy time morning or mid-afternoon.

Athletic Performance

But what about caffeine use in athletic performance? Can it be used efficiently? Is it a necessity? Is the use that effective? Yes, Yes, and YES! Major studies have been done on the effects of caffeine on athletic performance and these are some results from Active.com:

“The average improvement in performance is about 12 percent, with more benefits noticed during endurance exercise than with shorter exercise (eight to 20 minutes) and a negligible amount for sprinters. More benefits are also noticed in athletes who rarely drink coffee, hence are not tolerant to its stimulant effect.”


Caffeine can not only be an effective tool in athletic performance, but athletic recovery as well. Because caffeine speeds up chemical body processes, it inherently speeds up the time it takes for the body to repair itself from previous workouts. Additionally, Caffeine can increase the effects of carbo-loading for race weeks. Read Caffeine used as a Recovery agent for a more in-depth analysis.


But is this legal in endurance sports? Again, Yes! In the ITU, USAT,as well as USATF rules it explicitly states that Caffeine is NOT a banned substance and can be used in competition.

How about ethically? Is it wrong? This is a matter of opinion but I believe it is not wrong. Caffeine is widespread, available to everyone, and is generally not harmful (extra high doses can trigger anxiety attacks and such).

According to the New York Times, “Caffeine, which is legal under International Olympic Committee rules, is the most popular drug in sports. More than two-thirds of about 20,680 Olympic athletes studied for a recent report had caffeine in their urine, with use highest among triathletes, cyclists and rowers.”


So what is the proper dosage of this drug? Studies show that fewer than 2mg of Caffeine per kg of body weight has no athletic enhancing effect while over 6mg of Caffeine per kg of body weight actually hurts athletic performance.


Where to get it? Your first thought is probably “coffee.” While this is easily the quickest and cheapest way to obtain caffeine, studies show that caffeine in coffee may not be utilized as effectively as other sources. While this may be true, other options include eating 1000 calories of 90% dark chocolate (I love chocolate but let’s not get carried away), tea, or caffeine pills. Personally, I’ll take a few more ounces of the joe’ to compensate.

How to use caffeine efficiently?

When used on a regular basis, the effects of drugs on the human body tend to diminish over time. This is no different for the use of caffeine. Those who use it as a wake-up call every morning are going to see less pronounced effects.

While I haven’t found any studies pertaining to the tolerance effect of caffeine, I recommend scheduling it’s use sparingly (not daily) based on trial and error experience. I find that the athletic enhancements of caffeine diminish greatly after using the drug three or more days a week. Use caffeine twice a week on Lactate/Aerobic Threshold and VO2 Max days to enhance training performance. Three weeks before an “A” race, use is cut down to once a week to break tolerance levels so there is a greater effect during race week.

Schedule caffeine use on days with higher carbohydrate intakes for maximal carbo-loading. A study from the Journal of Applied Physiology (July 2008) found that glycogen levels were substantially higher with carb/caffeine ingestion as opposed to just carb ingestion. Most endurance athletes would call this glycogen storage “carboloading.”

Example for a Build week in Triathlon

90min Ride

2 Hour
VO2Max Run
90min Run

90min Swim
2.5 Hour
LT Ride
(Long Sets)
90min Ride

60min Swim
60min Swim
2 Hour
Weighted Run



Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Running Smart: Hydration and Nutrition

by Joe Geronimo

Long before I was inspired to be a runner I never really drank, water that is. To be honest I cannot even tell you why. I've been running now for almost three years and my hydration habits are horrible. Research shows that an average male weighing 200 pounds needs 70 ounces of water per day to replace just every-day water loss. That does not include any extra effort or exercise. I can tell you this I don't think I've drank 70 ounces of water on a hot summer day. Throw in my running routine and it's a potential date with disaster.

I have a rule, its my own and I think it needs some modification to say the least. If I was running or racing anything less than a half marathon I would not drink water during. I never liked the "sloshing" feeling. After my run or race I might have a 16/20 ounce bottle of water and that is pretty much it, then it was "beer me!" Like I've stated I really have not been a water drinker. During the New York City marathon I carried no water but did make it through a few water stops along the course.

Over the past year I have been battling muscle injuries in my lower half, hip flexors, glutes & calves. I attribute a lot of this to my change in running shoes. I went from a stability shoe "i.e.. Brooks Adrenaline" to a more minimal drop neutral shoe as in the Brooks Pure Flow. I'm a big boned guy who hits the pavement hard when I run so I believe that lack of stability did some damage. It also didn't help that I rarely took a day off over the past two years and I ran 99% of my runs hardcore with barely a slow run. Yes I over-worked myself and I am paying the price. Fall 2013 through winter 2014 I was running 200+ miles a month in bitter cold temperatures before I fell to my injuries. My last race, the 2014 Binghamton Bridge Run half marathon, I was in so much pain I think I was crying crossing the finish line.  Recently and I mean in just the past few days I've been looking at how I am truly feeling. Muscles constantly tired, achy and sore. It hit me like a freight train, "hey dummy something else is going on here." I thought to myself: I wonder if my lack of hydration is play an integral part of my issues? After some online research, conversations with my wife, friends and trainers pointed me in the direction of hydration as a huge culprit.  

Sign up now for the Parade Day Mile!
Get your speedwork in while enjoying this fun race!
Cash awards for top finishers, prizes for best costume.

Over the past several days I have been working very hard at hydrating myself and as of today I feel pretty darn good. My muscles don't ache and I feel quite considerably less sore than they have in a long time. This revelation of hydration came to me after my long run this past Sunday, don't ask me why. Over the last 20 years my nutrition had been terrible. This is why I weighed over 300 pounds before making some life changes. I never met a drive thru I didn't like or a foot long sub that was too big, pass me a 55 gallon drum of soda with a side of fries. In 2012 I ditched the Whopper with cheese so to speak for a more thoughtful and healthier lifestyle and it changed my life forever. I won't bore you with the details but a 3 ounce serving is VERY small. I've never been really good with nutrition.  How could I be? I work for the railroad and we were on call 24/7 365 with only a 2 hour notice to come to work. We'd work 12, 13, 14 hours a day, rest for 10 hours, and right back at it. We were zombies and I remember packing enough food to make sure I could stay awake for those long hours. Sometimes that wasn't enough and we'd find a Mickey D's or a diner. That poor nutritional lifestyle finally caught up with me and I needed to make a change. Finally, I have managed to keep my weight down with good choices and exercise. Lately though I have had this idea wrestling around my head that since I'm a runner I can eat whatever I want, WRONG! I've let things slide as of late, eating way to much candy (damn you chocolate & peanut butter), pizza, burgers, beer, etc. I love my family to death but I know when we all are together its going to be days of eating like crap.  Hey, we're Italians and we like to eat. It takes my body a full week, yes 7 days to recover from an eat-a-thon. I've gained several pounds over the last 9-10 months using this "I'm a runner" mentality and its time for me to get back on track. Its ok to enjoy that burger, pizza, beer and so forth but I am now making it a once in a while deal rather than more routine as it has been.

Don't miss out on our Nutrition for Runner's Clinic!
Feb 8, 2015
For more information, click here.

I'd like to ask you this, do any of you struggle with hydration or nutrition? If so I would love to hear about it.