Caffeine timing (start of race)

I have been experimenting with using caffeine to help with the RPE of races. From the podcasts, I learned that normal impact is about 20 minutes after taking it. So I have been taking it as close to the start of the swim as possible (1 pill). That has it kick in just as I am coming out of the water. Though I can often feel it hit about half-way through the swim.

In one of the recent ThatTriathlonShow Podcasts, @Mikael_Eriksson stated to take it 60 minutes before the race.

Total race time for me is normally 2.5 to 3 hours. So 1 dose only for me. Outside of racing, I do minor amounts (about 1.5 cups of coffee per day), so the sensitivity is there.

When do you take caffeine and why?

Thank you

I have a three year old that hates sleep. I take caffeine in order to not die!


I spoke to a lot of BC (british cycling) nutriotionists this year regarding caffeine and the general consensus is that taking it an hour before you need it is ideal.
So for an hour crit or cx race youll be looking at 15 minutes prior to the start of the event if you want the effect in the final 15 minutes.
I say effect as its not a sudden shot of NOS it really just allows you to delay the onset of fatigue or carry on working at a high level.

Coffee when I wake up, then caffeine gel on the start line so it starts to kick in during the race, at some vague unspecified point.

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For me it depends on the length of the race.

I’ve stopped taking it before the swim as I’ve had issues with panic attacks in the swim associated with the tightness of the wetsuit and caffeine. This has been more racing the shorter distances where effort levels tend to be higher. I might be able to take it really close to the start for Oly distance and shorter and get away with it but I haven’t done recently.

For HIM races I’ll tend to take 200mg caffeine at the start of the bike so that it kicks in for the second half of the ride and for a full IM around half way on the bike for similar reasons.

If it’s just a non-coated caffeine pill I’ll take it 30 to 40 minutes before start time. If it’s a gelcap I’ll usually break open the caps, mix it in water, and drink it on the same schedule. But, honestly, it doesn’t take 30 or 40 minutes to feel the psychoactive effects of caffeine…it only takes a few minutes. I guess the 30 to 40 minute wait time is to make sure caffeine in the blood is maximized.

I want the full ergogenic benefit right from the gun.

I’ve got a 6 hour mountain bike race a week from Saturday and plan to use one of those SIS super caffeine gels maybe 2/3’s of the way through. Because it’s freakin’ hot this time of year in Texas, the race runs from 4 to 10 PM, so I figure I might need it as 10 is my usual bedtime.

I’ll use Clif Blocks (Black Cherry flavor, has caffeine) from the start onwards, which is my usual caffeine intake method during a long event.

for up to ~3 hour races, I’ll do 200mg ~10 minutes before the start and I’m good for the race. I don’t really need the boost right at the start, so it’s fine if it doesn’t kick in for 20-30 minutes. for longer races, I’ll add 100mg every couple hours.

For me and the way I race the start of the swim is critical, regardless of race distance. That’s when I want to have my peak of caffeine-imduced reduced perception of effort. Therefore I take it one hour before the race start.

If the swim isn’t critical and we’re after the general effects of caffeine, then taking it 15 minutes prior or right before the start should be just as fine for anything Olympic distance and above. For a sprint lasting around one hour I feel it would be better to take it earlier to reap the rewards for a larger proportion of the race.

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Due to the logistics of Ironman it’s usually two cups of coffee about 1.5h before race start.

I don’t look for caffeine again until the run, but I may revisit this. A Red Bull can is about right if the race is offering them, and isn’t sweet.

I’ve been given medical advice that three cups of coffee per day is optimal health wise rather than performance, so that’s my rough goal of a morning.

I experimented with caffeine pills in years gone by and never got it right so gave up on them.
Recently and seeing as I’m doing more longer events I’ve tried taking SiS caffeine shots about an 30-60 mins before I want then to kick in and around the 4 hour mark.
I haven’t experienced any boost in energy but I have noticed an ability to maintain my output

As some have already said it’s about timing it for when you’ll need the effect to be at it’s strongest.

In road racing that could vary a lot depending on the course and how you’d prefer to race it. If you plan to be very active in the beginning to get the break started take it before the race, if you plan to be patient for a late race move take it later. Or take it both before the race and later in the race depending on the race length, your caffeine sensitivity, and the likelihood of the beginning of the race being hard.

For short events (crits or time trials) I take a dose 45-60 minutes before the start and another 15 minutes before the start, no caffeine during the event

For longer events (road races) I take a dose on the start line and then begin mixing in caffeine gels around 60 minutes into the event to keep it present in my system for the remainder of the race