Caffeine testing amount for racing

I normally have 1 cup of coffee per day. Sometimes a weak 2nd cup about lunch if I am really dragging at work. Otherwise, I have cut caffeine successfully for several years now.

The podcast discussions on it lowering RPE and helping with racing has me curious to add it to the racing regimen. Most of my races are Xterra off-road Triathlons. Times range from 2.5 to 3.5 hours.

My question is about testing and determining the amount to take for a race. And when to take it. (in my case, how far ahead of the start - marathon events are a different timeline).

Most of my training happens first thing in the am, where even adding coffee would take too much time. Or a group ride in the evening, where sleep is hard enough afterwards without caffeine.

I worry about too much and getting all jittery in a C race (I have 1 this year) and having things fall to pieces. Start w 2 strong cups of joe?

Hopefully this makes sense.


A few things to mention:

  1. 3mg of caffeine per kg of bodyweight is generally the minimum dose of caffeine required to get a performance benefit. So 210mg for a 70kg rider.

  2. Caffeine takes 40-80mins to be fully absorbed into your body.

  3. The half life of caffeine is somewhere in the 4-5 hr range, meaning you’ll have half the concentration of caffeine in your body 4-5 hrs after taking it (or more specifically, after the caffeine has been absorbed into your body).

  4. Caffeine content in coffee can be very variable. Better to use caffeine pills so you know exactly how much you are taking.

From here, you can experiment and see what works.

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A couple of options (either/both):

About 30mins pre-race, you can take HammerGel Espresso. A single serving has 50mg caffeine and 22g carbs. HammerGel comes in single serving packets and 26 serving bottle.

During the race, several of our racers use HammerGel in Hammer flasks with a ratio of 4 gel and 1 water for mixability. I have found that if you store it in your jersey pocket upside down (so contents settle near the top), it is easy to single handed remove from your jersey pocket, open the top with your teeth, consume and close. At the last race I did (2.5hrs), I had two such flasks - one with Espresso and one with chocolate (no caffeine). You can consume espresso early in the race; chocolate later.

Caffeine can be a bit of a double edged sword! Yep, it can give a slight stimulant effect, but it’s also a diuretic. Therefore can contribute to dehydration. I’ve actually started to reduce my caffeine intake for road races, but for short crits or 10 mile TT’s I’ll bang a caffeine gel 10 mins before the start.

My understanding is that cafeine is not the diuretic that previous thoughts held. As much as I sweat I will take the performance boost.

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