Caffeine and Swimming – Issue #112

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Caffeine and Swimming

Dear Friend,

Without enough energy, we not only will have a tough time making it through the workouts required to compete in (or just complete) a triathlon.

Proper swimming requires both physical and mental energy, especially as a beginner.

Many triathletes take supplements to support their bodies during times of demanding physical exertion. I believe some supplements can help. But it’s difficult to distinguish between myths and facts surrounding supplements for endurance athletes.

Last week I attended a talk locally at the Coastal Sports & Wellness center on this subject and discovered some interesting facts (caffeine is good for us?)! I have included a summary of this talk below.

To Laughing at the Water,

“To live consciously means to seek to be aware of everything that bears on our actions, purposes, values, and goals – to the best of our ability, whatever that ability may be – and to behave in accordance with that which we see and know.”
-Nathaniel Branden

For Stroke Technique and Training Plans for Beginner & Intermediate Triathlon Swimmers, Click Here

Sports Supplements

Summary of Sports Supplement Lecture
Coastal Sports Medicine
August 18, 2008
San Diego, CA

Endurance exercise can significantly increase the production of free oxygen radicals. However, the training or exercise history is important. In untrained or sedentary individuals, skeletal muscle damage can occur from the increased free oxygen radicals and lipid peroxidation levels and may cause skeletal damage. In these individuals, there may be some role for Vitamin E to help enhance the untrained individuals response to exercise.

The overwhelming consensus of the literature is that long- or short-term supplementation with vitamins E or C has no ergogenic effect on submaximal exercise performance, aerobic capacity, or muscle strength.

However, the performance impact of these antioxidants may be subtle or difficult to accurately detect. It is possible that these studies did not have the correct measurable endpoints.

Furthermore, there may be general health benefits from Vitamin C & E supplementation that does not impact exercise performance, especially in people that do not maintain a diet high in fruits and vegetables.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 (Fish Oil) Supplements

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids cannot be made directly by the body, but are formed from a shorter fatty acid, alpha linoleic acid. The two most common fatty acids are DHA and EPA.

Fish oil, Endurance Athletes, and Asthma

Various studies have shown that supplementing with fish oils causes a significant improvement in pulmonary function with supplementing 3.2 grams of EPA and 2 grams of DPA.

Quercetin Supplements

Quercetin is a naturally occurring flavanoid found in many different fruits and vegetables such as red grapes (and red wine), red apples, red onions, and broccoli.

One study on cyclists shows that those who took quercetin were much less likely to develop colds than those who took the placebo.


Caffeine is the most commonly consumed drug in the world. Caffeine was previously on the IOC and WADA banned substance lists at higher urine concentrations, but has recently been removed.

In the first test, subjects that took 330 mg of caffeine 1 hour prior to exercise had a 19% longer time to exhaustion compared to the placebo group that took decaffeinated coffee.

Further studies have demonstrated that the ergogenic benefits of caffeine remain throughout the day.

Caffeine use before exercise has also been proven to decrease the use of muscle glycogen by up to 30% in competitive cyclists during 90 minutes of cycling.

Also, caffeinated beverages do not appear to cause dehydration during exercise when compared to water or sports drinks!

Regular coffee drinkers do not have to abstain before a big race to get the benefits of caffeine, since several studies have demonstrated that there is little or no decrease in ergogenic effects of caffeine in habitual caffeine drinkers.