Research highlights impact of coffee on athletic performance


Recent research reveals a range of physical and cognitive benefits that could improve the performance of athletes in all sports at this summer’s events

Thursday 01 July 2021 – With many major sporting events taking place this summer, across multiple disciplines, a review of the latest research published by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee has highlighted the impact that coffee, through the bioactive compounds of the caffeine, can have on the performance of the participants.

A large meta-analysis of 21 studies suggests that caffeine does this across a range of exercise tasks, including muscle endurance and muscle strength. This review also suggests that the effect on aerobic performance (longer duration) appears to be greater than anaerobic exercise (rapid bursts).[1]. In fact, aerobic endurance appears to be the form of exercise with the most consistent moderate to significant benefits from caffeine consumption.[1].

Dr JW Langer, Danish physician, nutrition expert and lecturer in medical pharmacology at the University of Copenhagen, said:
“Regarding coffee and its ingredient, caffeine, the results are very clear for athletes: caffeine can help improve performance. Numerous studies show that athletes who consume caffeine before a race or sporting event are able to go faster, last longer, and recover faster than athletes who don’t have the extra boost. This especially applies to endurance events such as long distance running.

Earlier this year, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) updated its position statement on caffeine and physical performance to support the idea that caffeine supplementation can improve various aspects of physical performance.[2]. Some of these aspects are highlighted in recent research as below. The ISSN position statement concludes that the benefits of low to moderate caffeine consumption include: improved muscle endurance, speed of movement and muscle strength, sprint performance, jumping and throwing, as well as a wide range of specific aerobic and anaerobic sports. Actions[2].

Dr. Langer, also an avid runner, completing over 400 marathons added:
“If coffee tends to ‘shake things up’ for you in the morning, consider scheduling coffee consumption early in the race. If you are used to drinking a cup or two of coffee each morning, you should also take your usual amount on race day.

Examples of the impact of coffee on athletic performance are as follows and further scientific research is available at

Performance improvement for middle distance runners
A 2019 amateur runner group study exploring the effects of alternative forms of caffeine supplementation supports evidence of improved performance during aerobic exercise. Although the individuals presented different results, overall the results showed that, regardless of the form of administration, a moderate dose of caffeine supplementation produced interesting gains in 5 km running performance per year. compared to a placebo.[3].

The impact of coffee on alertness and reaction time in sport
When alertness and attention are essential to athletic performance, a study conducted this year concluded that low or moderate caffeine consumption before and / or during exercise may help improve aspects of cognitive function that may be affected. ‘be important in sports performance. Specifically, the researchers suggested that caffeine may improve reported levels of energy, mood, and attention, and may further improve simple reaction time, memory, or fatigue.[4].

Sports performance is clearly beneficial for regular and occasional coffee drinkers
Caffeine consumption may benefit those who drink coffee regularly as well as those who drink it only occasionally. This is suggested by a study on resistance exercise and jumping.[5] and another study on cyclists undertaking a 5 km bike time trial[6], with both studies suggesting improvements of a similar amount in regular caffeine users and low caffeine users.

Coffee consumption promotes hydration in athletes
Hydration is important in athletes. While caffeine itself may have a mild diuretic effect, the contribution to overall fluid intake from a cup of coffee is notable. One study found no significant difference in measures of hydration status between those who drank coffee and those who drank water, concluding that coffee consumed in moderation by regular male coffee drinkers had moisturizing qualities similar to water.[7].

Improved performance for trained male runners
What’s more, one study also showed that drinking a cup of strong coffee an hour before a competitive one-mile (1.6 km) run can improve the performance of trained male runners by as much as 2%. In the double-blind, randomized, crossover, placebo-controlled study, when caffeinated coffee was consumed, a stroke was completed approximately five seconds faster than when a placebo was consumed and approximately four seconds faster than when decaffeinated coffee was consumed.[8].

Improved physical performance of footballers
As the Euro is in full swing, a recent study suggests that caffeine, ingested 5 to 60 minutes before soccer training, could provide valuable improvements in certain abilities related to improving the physical performance of footballers. These improvements included jumping performance, as well as repeated sprints and running distances. The researchers also noted that caffeine did not appear to cause increased markers of muscle damage or changes in perceived exertion while playing soccer.[9].

Another study found that caffeine, at a certain dose, was effective in improving burnout time, countermove jump height (CMJ) and Perceived Exertion Rating (RPE) of players in the gym. men’s football, in a test simulating the cardiovascular demands of a football match. , regardless of the differences in cardiorespiratory or neuromuscular condition[10].

However, another systematic review suggested that there was no significant improvement in the aerobic or anaerobic performance of players with caffeine.[11]. While some results are encouraging, conflicting studies show that this is an area where more research needs to be done.

For more information, visit, a scientific resource developed for healthcare and other professional audiences that provides the latest information and research on coffee, caffeine, and health.


Notes to editors

  • Moderate coffee consumption can be defined as 3 to 5 cups per day, based on the European Food Safety Authority’s review of the safety of caffeine[12].

About ISIC
The Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC) is a non-profit organization, established in 1990, dedicated to the study and dissemination of science related to “coffee and health”. Since 2003, ISIC has also supported a pan-European education program, working in partnership with national coffee associations in nine countries to impart current scientific knowledge on “coffee and health” to healthcare professionals.

ISIC’s activities focus on:

  • The study of scientific questions related to “coffee and health”
  • The collection and evaluation of studies and scientific information on “coffee and health”
  • Support for independent scientific research on “coffee and health”
  • Active dissemination of scientific research and balanced “coffee and health” knowledge to a wide range of stakeholders

ISIC respects the ethics of scientific research in all of its activities. ISIC’s communications are based on solid science and are based on scientific studies derived from peer-reviewed scientific journals and other publications. The members of ISIC are six of the main European coffee companies: illycaffè, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Lavazza, Nestlé, Paulig and Tchibo.

The website is a scientific resource developed for healthcare and other professional audiences and provides the latest information and research on coffee, caffeine, and health.

Follow us on twitter: @ caféetsanté

The references
[1] Grgic J. et al. (2020) Wake Up and Smell Coffee: Caffeine Supplementation and Physical Performance – A General Review of 21 Published Meta-analyzes. Br J Sports Med, 54 (11): 681-688.
[2] Invited by NS et al. (2021) International sports nutrition position society: caffeine and physical performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 18.1.
[3] Whalley PJ et al. (2019) The Effects of Different Forms of Caffeine Supplements on 5K Running Performance. Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 1-5.
[4] Calvo JL et al. (2021) Caffeine and cognitive functions in sport: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients, 13 (3): 868.
[5] Grgic J. & Mikulic P. (2020) Acute Effects of Caffeine Supplementation on Resistance Exercise, Jumping, and Wingate Performance: No Influence of Habitual Caffeine Consumption. European Journal of Sport Science, published online.
[6] Clarke ND & Richardson DL (2020) Usual caffeine consumption does not affect the ergogenicity of coffee ingestion during a 5 km bike time trial. Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, published online.
[7] Killer SC et al. (2014) No Evidence of Dehydration with Moderate Daily Coffee Consumption: A Counterbalanced Crossover Study in a Free-Living Population. PLoS ONE, 9 (1): e84154.
[8] Clarke ND et al. (2018) Ingesting Coffee Improves One-Mile Running Performance. Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 1; 13 (6): 789-794.
[9] Mielgo-Ayuso J. et al. (2019) Caffeine Supplementation and Physical Performance, Muscle Damage and Perceived Fatigue in Soccer Players: A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 11 (2): 440.
[10] Apostolidis A. et al (2020) Caffeine supplementation is ergogenic in soccer players regardless of cardiorespiratory or neuromuscular form. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr, Volume 17 (1).
[11] Ferreira RES et al. (2021) Effects of caffeine supplementation on the physical performance of soccer players: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Health, published online ahead of print.
[12] EFSA (2015) Scientific Opinion on the Safety of Caffeine, EFSA Journal, 13 (5): 4102.


About Author

Leave A Reply