Effects of caffeine on time to exhaustion in exercise performed below and above the anaerobic threshold

B S Denadai, M L Denadai
Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research 1998, 31 (4): 581-5
Controversy still exists concerning the potential ergogenic benefit of caffeine (CAF) for exercise performance. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of CAF ingestion on endurance performance during exercise on a bicycle ergometer at two different intensities, i.e., approximately 10% below and 10% above the anaerobic threshold (AT). Eight untrained males, non-regular consumers of CAF, participated in this study. AT, defined as the intensity (watts) corresponding to a lactate concentration of 4 mM, was determined during an incremental exercise test from rest to exhaustion on an electrically braked cycle ergometer. On the basis of these measurements, the subjects were asked to cycle until exhaustion at two different intensities, i.e., approximately 10% below and 10% above AT. Each intensity was performed twice in a double-blind randomized order by ingesting either CAF (5 mg/kg) or a placebo (PLA) 60 min prior to the test. Venous blood was analyzed for free fatty acid, glucose, and lactate, before, during, and immediately after exercise. Rating of perceived exertion and time to exhaustion were also measured during each trial. There were no differences in free fatty acids or lactate levels between CAF and PLA during and immediately after exercise for either intensity. Immediately after exercise glucose increased in the CAF trial at both intensities. Rating of perceived exertion was significantly lower (CAF = 14.1 +/- 2.5 vs PLA = 16.6 +/- 2.4) and time to exhaustion was significantly higher (CAF = 46.54 +/- 8.05) min vs PLA = 32.42 +/- 14.81 min) during exercise below AT with CAF. However, there was no effect of CAF treatment on rating of perceived exertion (CAF = 18.0 +/- 2.7 vs PLA = 17.6 +/- 2.3) and time to exhaustion (CAF = 18.45 +/- 7.28 min vs PLA = 19.17 +/- 4.37 min) during exercise above AT. We conclude that in untrained subjects caffeine can improve endurance performance during prolonged exercise performed below AT and that the decrease of perceived exertion can be involved in this process.

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