Most people passionate about road cycling are equally passionate about coffee. A high quality bike and a fine brew seem to go hand in hand and a weekend ride to a distant coffee house is definitely on the agenda, especially when it involves scenic roads and good friends. But, does coffee make you ride faster?
The debate of whether coffee is good for you is long standing but, as a passionate cyclist, I’m much more interested in any proven results that coffee increases ride performance, just so I can get my coffee to ride ratio right. Luckily some science types have been putting coffee to the test…
A science lab in Spain conducted research where a group of amateur cyclists were given a combination of carbohydrate gel and caffeine to consume 70 minutes before a ride. Their performance was compared to cyclists who had a smaller dose of caffeine as well as a group that had no caffeine with their energy gels. The results were that those with the high caffeine dose rode significantly better for longer. It’s the caffeine in coffee that has the driving power to put a little kick in your engine.
The trial tested caffeine drinks as well as instant coffee and found them to be equally effective if taken 60 minutes prior to a ride – or if you take your coffee just before you set off, your kick will come one hour into a ride.
The good news is, the more caffeine the better the performance. Those with doses of 0.7mg of caffeine per kilo of body weight recorded the highest performance levels over long cycling periods, while a dose of 0.5mgs per kilo of body weight was best at increasing performance over a shorter distance (like a 45-minute time trial).
Interestingly, a weak coffee (around 0.2mg per kilo of body weight) had no effect at all on cycling performance with endurance and timed results the same as those who didn’t consume any caffeine.
To find your perfect coffee to weight ratio simply multiply your body weight by 0.6 to get the amount of caffeine in mgs to help boost your ride performance.
Measurements can be a little tricky.
Knowing the amount is one thing, getting the right dose is another. While caffeine drinks will usually give you a breakdown of the caffeine content, coffee itself doesn’t provide a consistent amount. Different brews, different brands and different roasting methods all produce different caffeine quantities, to wild degrees. Studies by the Glasgow University showed that a shop-brewed espresso can contain anywhere from 50mg to 300mg of caffeine, which is a pretty big flux.
In general though, one strong cup of black coffee should give you enough to boost your ride. A standard mug of filtered coffee clocks in at around 140mg (although some can be significantly less). So feel good about downing a strong black coffee setting out on your weekend ride and having another one with lunch before you head back.
Another bonus, coffee is proven to reduce post workout pain, with two cups of coffee shown to decease muscle soreness by as much as 48%.
As always there can be too much of a good thing, so if you are wondering when to stop, health experts recommend not exceeding 400mg a day.
For a sensational hit you will feel straight away I recommend an espresso with a sprinkle of cinnamon powder on the top. Cinnamon regulates your blood sugar and provides antioxidants as well as a host of friendly vitamins and minerals. Coffee and cinnamon are both high in fibre, giving you a helping hand to reach the recommended 20 to 38 grams of fibre a day.
On Saturday the 19th of January at 8am, Body Torque will be riding from Adelaide City to Glenelg. Come and share the ride experience with us before Stage 5 of the blazing Tour Down Under, it’s the best way to get yourself into the summer of cycling.
In celebration of these outstanding coffee results we will be buying coffee for everyone who rides with us. Please RSVP to the event below to get further information about the route and meeting point.
Coffee and cycling while enjoying the Tour Down Under? That’s freedom!
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