WILL ENERGY DRINKS TAKE YOUR GAME TO THE NEXT LEVEL?
Updated: Apr 20, 2021
There are many myths surrounding what caffeine does to increase sports performance. Does it increase strength? Focus? Stamina? Reaction time? What does caffeine ACTUALLY do?
We at Caffeine Shark frequently post about how energy drinks will help you with your studying, gaming, sports, etc.; but HOW and WHY are important aspects to consider. Below I will break down three key components that caffeine has been proven time and time again to heavily affect: Focus, Reaction Time, and Endurance.
Do Energy Drinks Actually Improve Sports Performance?
“Caffeine is considered a stimulant. It stimulates the body's central nervous system and boosts the brain's production of a neurochemical known as dopamine, which controls the ability to focus and maintain concentration.” (Rachel Barclay, Healthline)
Have you ever been working hard to finish a task and end up distracted by your surroundings? I am happy to inform you that it is not just you. It is human nature to burn out from certain activities, and sometimes the more you progress, the slower you seem to work. This concept applies to sports as well.
Despite the scientific fact that people can only focus on a given task for a limited period of time, it has been proven that people can maintain longer periods of intense focus and vigilance while under the influence of caffeine. An excerpt from the book “Caffeine” proves this through a meta-analysis:
“Children exhibit improved functioning on both auditory vigilance and sustained attention tasks when caffeine is given. In addition, moderate doses (200mg) decrease self-reported feelings of boredom, possibly providing a partial explanation for the positive effect of caffeine in vigilance and sustained attention tasks. More generally, a recent review showed that caffeine improved vigilance performance in 14 of 17 studies.” (Caffeine, by Gene A. Spiller)
Now that we know focus is enhanced by caffeine consumption, you may be wondering which specific energy drinks are best suited for you. If you are looking to amplify focus specifically for a sport, here are our top three recommended in doing so:
2. REACTION TIME:
Whether you are playing a physical sport or an e-sport, heightened reaction time is an important advantage to have over your opponent.
A critical aspect to consider is the distinction between your body being in a sympathetic or parasympathetic state, and how caffeine can affect that. You are always on a spectrum; where sleeping is almost entirely parasympathetic, versus an adrenaline response triggered by “fight or flight” is sympathetic. When you consume caffeine, your central nervous system alters more towards a sympathetic state, thus increasing “fight or flight” response and therefore reaction time.
Bert Jacobson from the American Psychological Association ran a study to express how caffeine alters CNS state to improve reaction time. He writes that the study's “results indicate a significant effect between pre–posttest measurements for both reaction time and movement time favoring the 300-mg group.” (Psst… Exactly the amount in most performance energy drinks such as Bang and Reign)
This just proves why so many elite computer gamers are sponsored by energy drink companies. Enhanced reaction time through high consumption of caffeine is not cheating, it is simply giving yourself an advantage over your counterpart.
When selecting an energy drink for a sport, you need to make sure that the kick is strong enough to amp you up, while also ensuring that the caffeine content itself is not too high. Too much caffeine can make you jittery, therefore decreasing fine motor skill capability resulting in a NEGATIVE alteration in gameplay. We did the research and carefully selected our top three drinks for increasing reaction time and revving you up while simultaneously not going overboard with caffeine:
3. STRENGTH VS. ENDURANCE:
Caffeine has been shown to increase vigor which will increase overall exercise capacity, but what does that mean exactly for your workouts or ability in your sport?
Caffeine consumption in the gym will help you with high rep work, but not max strength. When applying this to any given sport, results may vary. For example, you will have more luck consuming an energy drink before most field sports for enhanced endurance than you will before a powerlifting competition. Now it might feel better to be amped up while lifting heavy weights, but it will have minimal effect on actual performance.
Todd Astorino explains this concept in the European Journal of Applied Physiology quite nicely:
“Multiple studies corroborate the ergogenic properties of caffeine (CAF) for endurance performance, yet fewer investigations document the efficacy of acute caffeine intake for intense, short-term exercise… Compared to placebo, there was no effect (P > 0.05) of caffeine on muscular strength, as 1-RM bench press (116.4 ± 23.6 kg vs. 114.9 ± 22.8 kg) and leg press (410.6 ± 92.4 kg vs. 394.8 ± 95.4 kg) were similar.”
Luckily for you, most sports require more muscular endurance than one rep max strength. You may be thinking, “Hmm. That’s great and all, but I am a distance runner. How will increased muscular endurance help me?”
First of all, increased muscular endurance has been proven to increase stride length in elite long-distance runners. Speed is just average stride length by stride turnover rate, so increasing stride length is quite important long-term. That being said, having caffeine will probably have minimal effect on average stride length for a competitive runner because their form is well rehearsed. It will certainly increase vigor for a race and may improve results long-term if implemented in a daily training routine over time, but the acute improvements from a single race likely have more to do with increased aerobic endurance than muscular endurance.
Caffeine has proven to significantly enhance aerobic endurance as well as muscular endurance. In fact, Albah Cass explains in the Evidence-Based Practice Journal that not only did caffeine improve endurance, but actually “was shown to be superior to carbs or water [in cyclists]. Consumption of caffeine (around 6 mg/kg) an hour before exercise produces small to moderate improvements in endurance, particularly in increasing time to voluntary exhaustion (TVE) and ratings of perceived exertion (SOR: A, meta-analyses of RCTs).”
Similarly to its effect on strength, aerobic endurance is enhanced while anaerobic ability is not.
You may be asking yourself what the perfect energy drink is to enhance performance in your sport specifically. Does it differ from sport to sport? Since most sports require similar usage of energy systems, the primary reason it differs is simply knowing how much caffeine to consume for your bodyweight. The Journal of Applied Physiology explains the results of their study on well-trained endurance athletes:
“Endurance was enhanced with both 3 and 6 mg/kg of over the placebo, whereas there was no significant effect with 9 mg/kg of caffeine.”
Make sure you know how much caffeine you should be consuming before deciding on one of our professional recommendations. For example, if you are 180lbs, that means you are around 82kg and should therefore consume between 246mg and 492mg for maximum effect.
Now use your brain. There are about 95mg in a normal cup of coffee, 77mg in an 8.4oz Red Bull, and between 140mg and 160mg in a typical 16oz Monster. So you would need over 5 cups of coffee, nearly 6.5 8.4oz Red Bulls, or more than 3 Monster energy drinks to get you near 492mg of caffeine.
Find a solid middle ground. For this particular example, drinking a Bang, Reign or other 300mg energy drink would probably be best. Below is a list of our top recommended drinks for increasing muscular endurance.
Cheat sheet: 300mg of caffeine falls under the 3-6mg/kg if you are between 110-220lbs. Here are some performance-enhancing energy drinks with 300mg of caffeine:
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:
Focus, reaction time, and muscular endurance are all key factors in any sport. Enhancing them WILL help take your game to the next level. So how do you begin your journey?
You begin by experimenting with the different energy drinks to find which ones work best for you. Zero Cal energy drinks like most Reign and Bang advertise their sports performance on the can, and I personally use these over most other energy drinks due to lack of sugar.
Do they ACTUALLY help you with sports? In most cases, YES, they absolutely do. If you’re an athlete who is not a powerlifter or sub-100m track star, energy drinks can help you significantly.
Throughout this article, there are links to 9 different energy drinks that all are proven to enhance performance. Try these out, or find your own favorites at caffeineshark.com. Just know that if you train or perform after consuming the right beverage, you WILL yield better results and take your game to the next level.