Caffeine for hard workouts - Is it cheating?

I usually drink one cup of coffee a day, but for my last 2 OverUnder workouts I’ve drank 2 (a little bit bigger) cups of coffee (roughly 3mg/kg, according to this video by Shane Miller: ) about 1 hour before the workout and it does seem to make the workout easier to complete. My question is: would doing this be beneficial because it helps me complete the hard workouts or detrimental because it doesn’t challenge my mental toughness to the same level as before?

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It’s not going to make a dramatic difference, if you feel it helps go for it. Just know that without it you can still complete the same workouts, they might just feel a bit harder.

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That’s quite a bit of coffee, but still not a massive dose of caffeine. There could be an element of placebo effect too.

Kinda boils down to what you consider cheating, really. Pretty sure there is documented research indicating caffeine reduces Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), among other performance benefits. If that is cheating, then perhaps the answer to your question is yes?

IMO, If it helps you to complete the workout I’d say go for it still.


Just make sure you drink two cups before races and you’re golden. :slight_smile:

I guess I am a cheater as well, I usually take a caffeinated gel one hour before tough interval workouts to top off the system.


I drink coffee every day. No doubt caffein lifts me up. What’s weird though is that when I have a little too much I get sleepy! Just trying to say if you think it helps elevate your riding (mentally or physically) and you are able to stay in zones longer etc…then you’ll get more physiological benefit/adaptation. They say caffein is legal doping.

It has it’s limitations. If you can’t definitely determine the caffein is THE thing that elevates your riding then don’t worry about it. For the record, I don’t think for caffein does anything to help hold XXX watts or hang onto a group up a climb etc…I think it get’s me going in the am. But it’s pretty low on the list of things that I would associate as the reason I ride stronger/better. For example, bad sleep and a lot of coffee usually equals bad performance. Good sleep no coffee usually equals great performance.


Doesn’t the research proven physiological effect from caffeine come only from anhydrous-caffeine? The form in pills whereas coffee-caffeine is in a form that is much, much less effective? This does not exclude any placebo effects but there is a distinction to be made.

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I thought pills are used mainly because it’s hard to reach the desired quantities of caffeine from coffee, I haven’t read that the caffeine in coffee would be less effective. And in studies they probably want to isolate and only add caffeine and not all the other stuff that coffee contains.

My understanding is that the research showing a benefit of caffeine was all at lower intensities anyway, so it may well be the caffeine has no more effect than placebo for these harder sessions anyway. I just don’t care how much coffee I have & sometimes use a cup as a period to focus & look at past goes at the same workout, although it can also double as prevarication .

Response to my own statement:

false (at least for low habitual caffeine consumers)

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I drink maybe 2-3 cups of coffee a day and use caffeine clif blocks (black cherry) during longer rides and races. Sometimes I use them during a longer TR workout, but most of the time I’m focused on restoring electrolytes and not trying to get caffeine into my system for those.

I don’t think it’s cheating, per se, but, as others have pointed out, it does give you an advantage. I think as long as you’re consistent between training and racing/riding, then go for it.

I actually limit my coffee consumption before long rides and especially before races because caffeine makes me have to go to the bathroom a lot. :anguished:

Anything that only lowers RPE will generally not interfere with your physiological responses to stress (music, caffeine)

That being said, there are other things that will blunt your gains (excessive anti-oxidants, NSAIDs) and should generally be avoided unless necessary.


@sryke Back in the day it was a banned substance in large enough quantities. Is that not still the case? (did a quick search and it’s gone back and forth so much in the last 30 years).

First Lance, now you. Doesn’t anyone ride clean anymore? I believed in you man… :cry:


Haha, everyone’s on the stuff!

If caffeine is cheating, then I am a full-fledged and unapologetic doper.


@kurt.braeckel We’re all busted in the Operation Juan Valdez sting. haahahhaha :joy:


Pros do something very similar to this as a matter of institutionalized practice. It’s called a ‘finish bottle’ and there is usually some opiate in there with the caffeine. I first heard Floyd Landis say that opiates in various forms were legal in the pro peloton (and was astounded to hear it)…I’d say two cups of coffee are a lot more tame than a finish bottle.

As to whether or not you should use this approach on a regular basis? I wouldn’t. Save it for race day. But if you choose not to heed my advice don’t let your conscience bother you. Caffeine is the performance enhancing drug that cyclists have most rationalized: it’s ok. It’s also a very effective ergogenic. So, win-win.

I didn’t mean “cheating” in an “illegal drugs” way, just asking if the physical adaptations that result from these workouts will remain the same whether I drink coffee or not. I understand that there could be a small element of placebo somewhere there or that my FTP increased a bit (my last ramp test was on December 24th) which made the OverUnders easier to complete, or a combination of these things. But either way, drinking 2 cups of coffee before “Carpathian Peak +2” and “Mary Austin -1” transformed it from pure torture to difficult but doable.

Yup… but maybe not for much longer in that form.