Does caffeine affect athletic ability?

By Julia Sparco

Elm Staff Writer

Coffee can help wake you up in the morning for classes and can be a pick-me-up in the afternoons. Some student-athletes also use it as a way to improve and boost their performance.

With the easy accessibility and popularity of caffeine, it is a common way for athletes to get energized before playing, especially with early morning practices and games.

But does drinking caffeine before playing actually help or cause harm to the student-athletes’ bodies?  

According to Medical News Today, coffee had no true positive effect on athletic performance. But consuming coffee in small doses is better as it can “improve endurance and increase strength.” 

Medical News Today also said, “subjects who consumed the equivalent of around three or more cups of coffee every day saw their athletic performance decline with repeated sprint tests.”

Caffeine stimulates an effect on the nervous system as well. This prevents a feeling of fatigue reduces feelings of pain. It also helps sharpen mentality, causing a clearer mindset during strenuous activity.

Caffeine does not actually improve athletic ability, but it can help prepare an athlete’s body for athletic activity.

Coffee can cause a placebo effect of having a better performance, which athletes should be weary of. There are many factors that go into a good athletic performance, such as focus, health, competitions, teammates’ performance, and mental stability. 

While caffeine can enhance some of these things, it is not real. An athlete can do anything they do with caffeine in their system without it there too. 

Understanding these things as a student-athlete can be beneficial because an athlete can use caffeine as an advantage, but not for exactly improving performance. 

So, how are Washington College student-athletes using caffeine throughout their careers? 

WC athletes have morning lifts in their off-season that can begin as early as 4 a.m. Beforehand, athletes can be frequently seen drinking out of mugs when arriving at the training facilities. 

But for afternoon practices or games, WC student-athletes are almost split down the middle for their caffeine consumption. 

“I like to drink [coffee] in the morning for classes, but never for volleyball — it makes me shaky,”  junior volleyball player Jenna Daunauras said. 

“My dad always told me coffee has a lot of water in it, so it can be good for hydration,” senior team captain Anna Bennett from the women’s lacrosse team said. “I drink 3–4 cups a day and always have one before a game.” 

Senior volleyball players, Abby Smith and Laura Cochrane, said that they do not drink coffee at all and do not feel the need for it. 

“I always have to have a cup when I wake up, but only sometimes before playing,” senior captain Cole Storm of the men’s basketball team said. “It all depends on how I am feeling on game day.” 

“I drink coffee before my life or practice to give me energy,” junior baseball player Ben Ruvo said. “Drinking it makes me feel alert and more locked in when I am training.” 

It is also important to remember that caffeine can come in other forms than just coffee. Caffeine can be found in tea, candies, and supplemental pills. 

“I use an all natural amino acid powder before games — it helps me fuel up on energy and vitamins,” senior captain of the women’s basketball team Gemma Mochi said. 

Overall, caffeine does not directly affect athletic performance and improve it, but it can still be beneficial for athletes to use in their sports or in daily life. 

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