Coffee-loving athletes, rejoice! You may be able to ditch the energy drinks and caffeine pills for good.
The caffeine in a morning cup of joe could be enough to improve athletic endurance, a new study from the University of Georgia (UGA) found.
Researchers said this finding suggests that drinking coffee can be just as beneficial for athletic endurance as consuming caffeine in the form of powders or tablets — and a whole lot safer, too.
"There’s a perception that coffee won’t give you the same benefits as pure caffeine," said lead study author Simon Higgins, a doctoral student at UGA, in a press release. "New research could mean that athletes could have a cup of coffee versus taking a pill. This is helpful for athletes because coffee is a naturally occurring compound."
For this study, Higgins and team narrowed down a list of more than 600 scholarly articles to nine that focused only on the effects of caffeinated coffee on athletic endurance.
In the nine trials, participants either cycled or ran 45 minutes after drinking coffee. Their results were then measured.
These researchers found that between 3 and 7 milligrams (mg) of caffeinated coffee per kilogram of body weight increased athletic endurance by about 24 percent. The amount of caffeine in an average cup of coffee can vary from 75 mg to more than 150, depending on the variety.
That means that an athlete weighing 150 pounds would have to drink less than 1 cup of coffee to see these results.
However, Higgins said more research is still needed before any recommendations can made.
"There is a caveat to athletes using coffee: Be careful because you don’t know how much caffeine is in some coffee, especially when it’s prepared by someone else," Higgins said. "Athletes should run their caffeine use through their sports dietician as the [National Collegiate Athletic Association] lists it as a banned substance."
This study was published Dec. 18 in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.
Information on funding sources and conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.