Growth Asia Summit 2023

Caffeine’s role in sports: Timing of intake subject to significant debate - researcher

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Caffeine Energy drink sports performance

There is currently significant debate taking place over the timing for athletes to consume caffeine and reap the most benefits, a leading sports science researcher has pointed out.

Caffeine, when consumed as a sports supplement, could help improve sports performance. Existing evidence has shown that it could reduce pain and is associated with an increase in adrenaline levels.

As a supplement, it has been consumed to help different types of sports activities, such as endurance sports.

Associate Professor Stephen Burns from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University National Institute of Education’s Physical Education and Sports Science Academic Group has also studied its effects in ball games sports.

It was found that caffeine supplementation could improve certain aspects of ball games sports, such as sprint performance. However, there was less evidence of its benefits in areas such as vertical jumping.

He presented the findings during his presentation title ‘Caffeine fix? The pros and cons of caffeine consumption for ball games athletes’ at the Growth Asia Summit 2023 held in Singapore during end September.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia ​after his presentation, he pointed out that the timing of caffeine intake has been a topic of debate of late.

Some have argued that caffeine should be given an hour before the start of an exercise, while others believe that it should be taken closer to the start of an exercise. 

“This (timing of intake) is a big debate around caffeine at the moment.

“Typically, what has happened in experimental studies is that caffeine has been given about 60 minutes before the start of exercise, but that means the peak concentration of caffeine corresponds with the start of exercise when the athlete is still fresh.

One of the debates is whether caffeine should be taken later or closer to the start of exercise, so that the caffeine peak corresponds with a state which is more fatigue,” ​he explained.

In this case, he has conducted a study involving basketball players who took 3mg/kg body weight of caffeine or placebo which is made of maltodextrin at different order.

One group took caffeine 60 minutes before the exercise followed by the placebo before the start of exercise, the other group took it in the reverse order, while the third group took placebo on both occasions.

“We tried to compare the effects of early dose caffeine with later dose caffeine of basketball shooting performance, but also physically effects, such as vertical jump, sprint time, and also the time to complete a basketball simulation test.”


Findings showed no differences in three-point shooting performance, vertical jump, and sprint time among the three groups.

However, caffeine intake had improved the overall timing during a simulated basketball exercise test for both groups taking caffeine – no matter whether caffeine was taken 60 minutes earlier or right before the exercise.

Metabolomics study found that caffeine levels, as well as paraxanthine and theophylline – both metabolites of caffeine – were elevated in both groups taking caffeine post-exercise. 

In addition, there was a negative correlation between the best completion timing with pre- and post-exercise paraxanthine and theophylline levels.

This suggests that paraxanthine and theophylline may be more important than caffeine itself in sports performance, said Prof Burns.

Future studies could focus on the effects of caffeine in female versus male athletes, he added.

Watch the video to find out more.

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