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With gyms closed and social distancing orders in place, people are running for exercise now more than ever, and increased time at home and zero commute mean increased opportunity to work towards a new personal best. Whether you're a seasoned runner or a beginner, a six-days-a-week-er or a weekend warrior, there's always room for better technique and a faster or longer run.
Knowing how to prepare your body before your run is one of the most effective ways to ensure you're at peak performance, but because we often squeeze in a quick run whenever we can fit it into our schedules—first thing in the morning, late at night—it can be hard to control what goes into our bodies in the time leading up to exercise. With stay-at-home orders freeing up schedules, you can be more careful about what your pre-exercise diet looks like. Caffeine has been used as an ergogenic aid (performance enhancer) for decades, and is the indispensable ally of many professional athletes. Let's take a look at how to best implement caffeine into your pre-run routine to achieve a faster and smarter run, so you can smash that personal best you've been sitting on for months.
Caffeine is well-known as a cognitive stimulant, and its mental benefits can impact your run, too: increased alertness, concentration, and reduced fatigue will improve your endurance and form. But caffeine also acts directly as a physical stimulant, and can therefore be a great way to prepare your body before a run. The physical benefits of caffeine can enhance performance at all stages of a run: caffeine has been shown to improve muscle contractile strength and endurance, so you can run faster and with better technique. It reduces muscle fatigue, so you can keep running longer. It can also improve muscle recovery, so that tomorrow's run won't be plagued with the muscle soreness of today's run. And while caffeine is a diuretic, it has been shown that normal doses (up to 5.0 mg/kg body weight) taken before exercise do not lead to dehydration.
Caffeine ingestion prior to running has been shown to increase run times in short, medium, and long distance runs. Caffeine increases endurance both throughout a single workout, as well as in exercise over consecutive days.
Increased endurance and delayed fatigue speed up long-distance runs
One review study found that in middle-distance and marathon runners, consuming 2.1–9.0 mg caffeine per kg of body weight resulted in run times up to 1.7% faster, and another study with doses of 3.0–8.1 mg/kg found speed increases of up to 3.1% more.
Caffeine-fuelled short runs are faster and technically sound
For a 10 kilometre run, that means reducing a personal best of 60:00 down to just 58:14—by almost two minutes. But how can you be sure that you're using caffeine the right way, so that you're actually getting all of these benefits, and none of the drawbacks? The short answer: it's all about strategy.
Caffeine is most commonly consumed from beverages like coffee or energy drinks, but this is a relatively ineffective way to get your pre-run dose. Caffeinated beverages do not offer consistent amounts of caffeine, they fill you up with liquid, and they often contain sugar and dairy, which can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort and sugar crashes when preceding exercise. If you're using caffeine as a running aid for the first time, it's recommended to start with a low dose like 3.0 mg per kg of body weight (or a flat starting dose of around 200 mg). Because you need some degree of exactness when determining the ideal caffeine dose, knowing your exact intake is crucial.
Dose smart: start small and work up
[note: ≤3.0 mg/kg = increased performance, vigilance, alertness, little to no side effects. 5.0–13.0 mg/kg = increased performance, but variable results, and with potential for large, whole-body side effects.]
Enter BLOCKHEAD Energy Gum, a liquid-free, sugar-free, precise, and fast-acting way to get exactly 50 mg of caffeine per piece. The consistent 50 mg dose in every piece of BLOCKHEAD Energy Gum allows you to carefully plan your caffeine intake, without having to worry about an upset stomach or full bladder during your run. Because the caffeine in our energy gum is absorbed through the mouth, not the stomach, you can chew it for five minutes before your run and have it take effect almost immediately, whereas with coffee or an energy drink, you have to plan at least an hour in advance. BLOCKHEAD Energy Gum makes for a much more flexible, customisable way to find the caffeine strategy that works best for you—without the added liquid or sugar. Just like how the ideal pre-run snack is an apple or an energy bar, you want to go into your run feeling light—so save the sugar for an after-run treat.
Caffeine can be a great way to get the most out of your exercise and push yourself even further, but it's only as effective as how you use it. Start out with a low dose before working your way up, and be smart about avoiding sugar- and dairy-loaded drinks that will weigh you down during the run. BLOCKHEAD Energy Gum can help you find the optimal, precise dose that you can fine-tune to help you go even further.