Caffeine gum is making its way among athletes – here’s why
However, not everyone wants an energy drink or a cup of coffee before a hard workout. In particular, those with sensitive stomachs may experience nausea. Instead, some athletes have started relying on caffeine gum: it provides the performance-enhancing caffeine without the fluid that leaks into your stomach as you push your body to its limits.
But is this kind of chewing gum really effective? More importantly, is it safe?
The benefits of caffeine for athletic performance
Caffeine has long been considered an ergogenic aid, a substance that can improve athletic performance. “Several studies have investigated its effects on a range of sports and exercise types,” says Maddie Pasquariello, RDN, registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition With Maddie. A systematic review in 2008 looked at a variety of endurance and high-intensity activities, including swimming, rowing, team and racquet sports, and mid- and long-distance running. “They ultimately determined that a moderate amount of caffeine – about 200 mg of caffeine for a 150-pound individual (about the equivalent of two cups of strong brewed coffee) – might be sufficient to produce performance benefits. “
Pasquariello says other studies have shown that even lower doses (less than 40mg total) can improve overall alertness, memory and attention, as well as power and speed for short bursts of exercise. intense as well as for a long lasting, endurance style. events.
Many of these studies were actually conducted with caffeinated gum. (The military in particular has researched this topic extensively.) For example, one study found it reduced fatigue during repeated, high-intensity cycling sessions: Subjects who had a placebo, gum-free caffeinated, saw their performance drop by 5.8 percent, while those on the caffeinated sports gum only saw a 0.4 percent drop. Those who had caffeinated gum also showed increased testosterone levels and decreased cortisol levels.
What are the benefits of caffeinated gum?
Pasquariello says caffeinated gum can be considered an “anhydrous” form of caffeine, meaning it’s ingested without water. It can have very different effects from drinking a cup of coffee or a Red Bull. “When you chew caffeinated gum, you end up swallowing some of the caffeine in your saliva (as you would with coffee or an energy drink), but much of it is absorbed under your tongue or the gums, and therefore goes straight into your bloodstream,” says Pasquariello. “That means absorption will happen faster and a performance boost will also happen faster.”
Additionally, some athletes find the gum more convenient because it can be stored in a pocket for easy access on the go. It also provides a clear shot of caffeine so you can narrow down your nutrition plan and know exactly how much you’re consuming.
Most importantly, it doesn’t linger in the stomach, making it a good option for athletes with sensitive digestive tracts.
The Cons of Caffeinated Gum
Caffeinated gum may not be for everyone. If caffeine usually gives you jitters, headaches or anxiety, chewing it will probably give you the same reactions.
“With rapid absorption, you have to be very careful not to consume too much,” advises Pasquariello. “And, it goes without saying, always consult your doctor before adding anything like caffeinated gum to your diet so that your medical team can determine what level would be appropriate.”
Although Pasquariello says there isn’t much data yet to suggest serious adverse effects from consuming caffeine in the form of chewing gum, all standard precautions still apply. “It should be noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics statement on caffeine is that it may interfere with sleep, heart rate, anxiety and hydration levels in children and adolescents, they do not should therefore not consume it,” she notes.
Chewing gum while exercising can also pose a choking hazard, so make sure you feel comfortable before popping a piece on your next run, or spit it out before you hit the pavement.
Should you use caffeinated gum for your workouts?
Those who participate in high-intensity aerobic activities like sprinting or competitive cycling may benefit the most from caffeinated chewing gum, Pasquariello shares. “Benefits can also be seen for those who participate in combat sports like boxing and specific power-based activities like vertical jumping.”
And, if you plan to go far, say, run a marathon, caffeine gum can also give you a boost in endurance and stamina.
That said, the everyday sportsperson probably doesn’t need it unless they’re looking for an added competitive advantage. “For the vast majority of adults, caffeinated gum may not be necessary,” says Pasquariello, “but it can be an effective and convenient way to consume caffeine.”
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