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Caffeinated Chewing Gum – Should Cyclists Use It?

By Jiri Kaloc

Caffeine is one of the few performance-enhancing supplements that actually works. There are many studies showings it improves performance in a variety of sports. Plus, most of us cyclists have a first-hand experience with how much difference an espresso mid-ride can make. But coffee is not the only way to get caffeine. One of the latest trends is to use caffeinated chewing gum. Should you give it a try? Let’s take a look.

A chewing gum gets you caffeinated quicker

When you use a caffeinated chewing gum, the caffeine is absorbed mainly in your oral and oesophageal mucosa, only a very small amount gets all the way down to the stomach. This means that caffeine is delivered to your system much quicker. A study showed that about 85% of the caffeine in a chewing gum is absorbed within the first 15 minutes of chewing. When we compare this to a caffeine capsule that has to be digested in the stomach and takes about 60 minutes to be absorbed, it’s clear that chewing gums have the edge. They increase attention, motivation, and reduce perception of pain and effort more quickly.

How much to take and when?

Considering the quick absorption, it’s best to start chewing approximately 10 min before you need to be caffeinated. Make sure to chew for at least 5 min to fully release all caffeine.

When it comes to dosage, it’s similar to other methods of getting caffeine. You should aim to get at least 3 mg of caffeine per 1 kg of your body weight. This would be about 225 mg of caffeine for a 75 kg cyclist. Avoid doses higher than 6 mg/kg because of a higher risk of gastrointestinal problems, nervousness, or anxiety.

What are the pros and cons of caffeinated chewing gums?

There are two clear advantages over having an espresso.

Quicker absorption – If you need to get caffeinated as quickly as possible, caffeine gum is going to be your best choice.

Easy to transport and dose – Caffeinated gum is also easy to carry. You can throw a pack into your jersey no problem. A piece of gum typically has 50 – 100 mg of caffeine so you can precisely adjust how much you get.

Before you head out and buy a pack, consider the following two potential issues.

Choking hazard – Especially during high intensity efforts, chewing may be difficult and could pose a choking hazard. It’s safer to use during easier cycling.

Bitter taste – The bitter taste of caffeine may be off putting to some, but the strong flavour may itself give you a kick. Manufacturers try to mask it with other flavourings so you may find one that works for you.

Overall, caffeinated chewing gum is definitely worth a try. It offers some unique benefits, even though it’s definitely not as enjoyable as a good cup of coffee. But if you need caffeine quickly, it’s worth having a few pieces with you. Just remember, as with any other supplement, test caffeinated gum in training before you consider using it in a race.