Sports Drinks That Include Caffeine

Question:  “I am a mountain biker who rides and races long-distance (24 hour races, 100-milers, etc).  My favorite and most trusted sports drink recently added caffeine to the mix.  50 mg in 3 scoops, which is approximately the amount I would use in 2 hours of a long-distance ride.  I’m afraid of the possible side effects such as being jittery and having the pee too much (and then becoming dehydrated).  I’ve used this drink with a lot of success over the years, and really hate the idea of finding a new one (I’m often nauseous with other brands).  What are your thoughts?”

Kelli’s Answer:

Although I completely understand your concerns (it’s a bummer when something works well for you, and then is changed!), 50mg of caffeine sipped over 2 hours is not typically going to cause problems.  Most caffeinated gels are 25-50 mg, and consumed all at once in comparison.  Caffeine typically helps you to have a lower sense of effort for the same amount of work, so it can take the “edge” off of long endurance rides.  It can also help when you anticipate hitting a “wall” or when you’re riding through the night.

More and more endurance formulas are adding caffeine; for example, Hammer Perpetuem also uses caffeine at 25 mg per 2 scoops, and I don’t know of, and can’t find, any major criticisms of it or accounts of pro athletes experiencing big diuretic effects.  Personally, I’ve used caffeine during 100-mile mountain bike rides/races without issue.  And, yes, I felt like it gave me a physical and/or mental boost.

While everyone is different, it usually takes 300+ mg of caffeine to have a big diuretic effect (drank in one setting).  So, if you like this drink, it may be worth a try to see if you pee more than usual.

I do have 3 recommendations:

1) Make sure to use it on a long-distance training ride before depending on it in a race.

2) Don’t use it for all training rides, just long ones >5 hours (you can use it for all races despite length).  If you always use it in training, you can create a dependence on the caffeine, and you will likely feel like you NEED it on all the rides or you will feel an increased sense of effort.  But, if you train without it most of the time, and then use it on long rides and races, you will get the caffeine “boost” without negative effects.

3) Once you begin drinking caffeine during a long ride, you need to continue drinking it to the end.  If it’s being pumped through your bloodstream during the first few hours, and then you stop drinking and switch to plain water or a non-caffeinated drink, you will feel the effects of no longer having caffeine (an increased sense of effort, mental and physical fatigue, and possibly headaches).

Like all training nutrition, it is a lot of trial and error and individual digestion…so, let me know how it goes after you use it on your next long training ride.  If you do feel like you are peeing more than usual, or have any other negative effects from it, it’s time to start shopping or a new drink.  But, don’t give up on it until you try it out!

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to www.apexnutritionllc.com.