Node Smith, ND

America’s Drug of Choice: Caffeine

And we certainly use it to its maximum potential, pushing ourselves to stay up later, get up earlier, work and play more, and do everything FASTER, with our ever-present cup of Starbucks in our hand – or red bull, or black tea, or coke, or monster energy drink. Whatever your particular caffeinated pleasure is, chances are its perceived as a serious influence in your performance, cognition (especially in the morning), or stamina. However, a recent study raises an interesting question – “is the caffeine really aiding in our performance?”

Caffeine Study on Athletes

A study with athletes recently showed that those who habitually consumed caffeine actually sustained a performance loss after consuming caffeine before an athletic performance.1

Caffeine is one of the most popular athletic performance enhancing supplements. It is thought to improve muscle strength, mental clarity and alertness, as well as lowering the perceived effort during training. But perhaps only when it is used sparingly.

Caffeinated Chewing Gum

The study was conducted at Dublin City University on male athletes. 18 team sports athletes were studied. Two groups were looked at, those who do not drink caffeine-rich drinks such as tea, coffee or energy drinks, and those who consume these beverages on a daily basis. The athletes were given sticks of caffeinated chewing gum (each the equivalent of a strong cup of coffee) and then asked to repeat 10 sprints. Participants were tested under conditions with and without the chewing gum.

Findings a Loss for the Caffeinated Team

The study found that the caffeinated gum did not aid in the performance of athletes who consume caffeinated beverages on a daily basis. In fact, these individuals experienced a loss in performance. The athletes who had low habitual caffeine intake-maintained performance after taking the caffeine gum.

The recommendation from the authors of the study was that if caffeine is intended to be used as a performance aid, that it be discontinued in the days leading up to an athletic event, so that its effects may be better utilized when it is needed.


  1. Evans M, Tierney P, Gray N, Hawe G, Macken M, Egan B. Acute Ingestion of Caffeinated Chewing Gum Improves Repeated Sprint Performance of Team Sports Athletes With Low Habitual Caffeine Consumption. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2017;:1-25.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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