4 Things You Should Know About Coffee as a Cyclist

By Jiri Kaloc

Are you a passionate cyclist? Chances are you know a lot about coffee and how potent it can be for improving cycling performance. There’s always more to learn about coffee. Let’s take a look at how you should change your coffee intake with age, if more is better, and whether abstaining for a while will enhance caffeine’s performance.

Is more always better?

Some cyclists would argue that yes, there’s no limit on how many cups of this wonderful beverage they would like to consume. Unfortunately, research shows that it’s more effective to have just enough. Cyclists that don’t drink coffee often should aim for 2-3 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight, which would be 1-2 coffees. Those that drink it regularly should aim for up to 6 mg/kg, which could be upwards of 3 coffees. Anything more than 6 mg/kg would likely cause nausea and nervousness.

Sagan with Coffee
How much is enough? © Profimedia

Older cyclists metabolise caffeine slower

Research is showing that as you get older, the rate at which your body metabolises caffeine significantly slows down. That means older cyclists should drink coffee earlier, about 90-120 minutes before training instead of 60 to get the kick at the right moment. It also means that older cyclists shouldn’t drink coffee in the evening. If caffeine is still in your system when you go to sleep, your sleep quality will suffer. And good sleep is much more effective for boosting athletic performance than coffee. So, it’s best to have your last cup of coffee no later than 14:00.

It doesn’t always dehydrate

Coffee is known to have a diuretic effect, meaning it will make you pee more and lose fluids. But this is only true if you drink it occasionally or if you consume a very large dose of caffeine of 500 mg or more. That would be 4 double-shot espressos at once. But most of us who love coffee and drink it regularly will experience no diuretic effect from our regular amount of coffee.

Coffee Pouring
Would you drink less coffee if you found out that it’s bad for you?

Is it worth to abstain before a race?

Some cyclists report that abstaining from caffeine for a week or two increases its effect when used on race day. Research shows that athletes who abstain and those and who drink coffee regularly saw statistically similar improvements in a time trial. But if you personally like abstaining before your races and feel a bigger boost, then keep doing it. It might be that ritual and increased focus on the race or you are statistically an outlier. Either way, the research says abstaining definitely doesn’t hurt.