It's about this time every year, as the main part of the running season gets under way that we start looking for any to help knock an extra second off. If you are already eating smart, training hard (and smart) and recovering just as hard, it might be time to start looking at using caffeine pre run.
I'm not however talking about the slurping down a cup of tea with one hand as you hurriedly lace up your trainers before heading out for your morning run.
When it comes to using caffeine on your run we need to split runs up into shorter and longer ones. With the shorter runs being anything up to a half marathon and longer runs being anything longer than that.
For these shorter runs, it's best to have your caffeine hit 15-60 minutes before heading out the door as it can take up to an hour for that coffee to really work it's way into your bloodstream and produce the desired effects.
If coffee isn't your cup of tea, or even if heaven forbid tea isn't your thing there are a tonne of options for getting caffeine on board pre run. While it doesn't really matter which you prefer, it is importation that you get the correct dose.
Everyone is a little different when it comes to caffeine and what might leave me a jittering wreck might be perfect for you, which is why it's so important to trail any nutritional changes in training before race day. For most people the sweet spot is somewhere between 3-5mg/Kg BW (body weight) and it really doesn't help taking more than this as the side effects start outweighing the benefits.
What this looks like in real life is that a 70kg runner would benefit from somewhere between 210 and 350mg of caffeine up to an hour before your run.
When it comes to the longer runs, anything from 13 miles on, caffeine can be useful in the later stages of the race as well. As anyone who has used coffee to fuel them through a long night will be able to attest, caffeine is awesome at fighting tiredness, but you might not know that it can also lower your perceived level of effort. Meaning it's possible for you to keep on going on at the same pace even as tiredness sets in.
When to have this mid run caffeine hit, really depends on you and the distance you are running but for most folks running a marathon somewhere around the final 10k usually hits the mark. As it can be almost impossible to drink a hot cup of coffee while running and many people don't respond well to caffeine gels, many find that caffeine pills are a handy option that don't cause too much stomach distress.
Too much of anything is bad for you, whether that's exercise, water, oxygen or caffeine. In excess the last one has commonly been linked to increased diuresis, heart rate, feelings of nervousness, nausea and anxiety. None of which sound particularly appealing so start off gently and if you feel fine up the dose slowly. Once you start to feel side effects ebbing in cut back to a dose you were happy with.
One last thing for you all, there are a few studies out there suggesting that the effects of caffeine pre workout are increased if you consume it with carbohydrates. So next time you're going running, brew your self a strong coffee, grab a snack, sit down and enjoy it. Those few minutes of calm, will help clear your head and really focus on what you want out of the session.