Olympic Athletes Are Turning to an Unexpected Drug This Year

August 1st 2016

Taylor Bell

While coffee may be the thing that helps us regular folk get up in the morning, it actually contains a performance-enhancing drug that many Olympic athletes will be using to give them the upper hand at the upcoming summer Games.


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Although it was once banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, caffeine has been permitted since the 2004 Olympics, and is being used by numerous athletes as a way to boost their performance during competition.

According to Wall Street Journal's Rachel Bachman, studies have shown that caffeine can give a 1-2 percent boost in performance, and that 3 out of 4 athletes are taking it in form of caffeine pills, caffeinated gum, coffee, or energy drinks.


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For endurance athletes, such as a marathon runner, one experiment showed that "caffeine took an average of 3 percent off of athletes’ finish times," according to Lifehacker.

However, Bachman also noted that coffee would probably prove less beneficial in competitions that require precise hand-eye coordination. "You don't want the coffee jitters on the balance beam," she said.

When it comes to how caffeine affects everyday exercise, the jury is still out.

Fitness websites like extol the benefits of a pre-workout caffeine boost, claiming it can improve strength and power sports performance by 20-percent and decrease feelings of exertion by 6-percent.

And InsideTracker reports that concerns over the dehydrating downside of coffee might be overrated too, stating "Caffeine does not dehydrate you unless you drink more than 500-600 milligrams (the equivalent of 5-7 cups of coffee) per day. Below this level, your body does not lose any more fluid than the beverage itself provides."

But that doesn't necessarily mean coffee is a workout wonder drug.

As pointed out by Beth Skwarecki in Lifehacker, "the International Society of Sports Nutrition writes in a position paper that we don’t know enough to say if caffeine helps with strength and power sports (like weightlifting or isolated short sprints)."