I just thought I would share my experience consuming way too much caffeine on a Granfondo I did yesterday (160Km). For context, I’m usually pretty caffeine tolerant as I’m an avid coffee drinker, so I got a little over zealous in estimating how much caffeine I could tolerate. I had three cups of coffee after breakfast and before my ride (probably made too strong), and then on the ride I had three bottles with gatorade mix and 400mg caffeine added (2x200mg pills) and seven Clif Double Espresso gels (100mg each) every half hour or so during the ride. Conservatively, I ingested 2400mg of caffeine from waking up to the end of the ride (about 6 and a half hours) . It’s amazing how stupid this seem in hindsight and I admit I didn’t actually add it all up beforehand. I also didn’t have any other food on the ride beyond a Clif bar right before the ride started (followed immediately by my first bottle).
My disclaimer - this is just an my personal anedote and I can’t be completely certain it was the caffeine. It’s just my hypothesis.
Here’s what happened to my performance:
-Overall my performance suffered as I finished 15 minutes slower than the same ride last year.
-I felt fine for the about the first hour of the race and maintained contact with the lead group for about 90Km (I got dropped on a mild surge that normally should not have been a problem). At this point, I inexplicably just started to come apart and my RPE went way up.
-Big muscle cramps set in way earlier than expected (cramping is common on this ride, even among strong riders), and I had been extra diligent about hydration leading up to the Granfondo. Admittedly the evidence of excess caffeine leading to muscle cramps during intense exercise isn’t great, bu there is enough for me to suspect a connection.
-I felt awful for the last 60-70Km of the 160Km and couldn’t put out much power.
-Generally a poor power performance as my NP was 277 for 4:26 (for comparison I did an NP of 304 for 4:10 two weeks before). My NPP was 288 last year on this ride for a time of around 4:11.
-My stomach was upset for a solid 24 hours or so afterwards.
-Took me forever to get to sleep last night.
So yeah, it wasn’t good. Don’t do what I did! Could have there been other factors in my poor performance? Absolutely. This is my caffeine hypothesis and I don’t wish to replicate the experience in order to confirm the results.
Disappointing to perform worse on a Grandfondo than the previous year, especially when my power has been demonstrably better this season. Oh well, live and learn!
More actual food and less caffeine next time! A few Clif bars and a few gels for the last half of the ride have worked well for me in the past (plus the Gatorade in my bottles), so I think I will return to that nutrition/hydration approach!