Athletes have long used caffeine to deliver a burst of energy to go stronger, harder, and faster.
Caffeine is more than a refuge for the tired and hungover.
Athletes, too, have long used caffeine to deliver a burst of energy to go stronger, harder, and faster. But now a new class of sports performance products has entered the market: caffeinated chewing gums. Some athletes are forgoing the coffee mug in favor of these potent chewables, but should you?
First know that caffeine, a natural stimulant, perks up the sympathetic nervous system, decreases the sensation of pain, and can help increase training intensity and volume, says Abbie Smith-Ryan, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., assistant professor in the department of exercise and sports science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
In fact, caffeine can improve athletic performance by three percent, says Matthew Ganio, Ph.D., associate professor of exercise science at the University of Arkansas. While that percentage may seem small, it’s often the edge athletes need to PR.
So here’s where the gum comes in: Not all endurance athletes love coffee or want to wait 10 minutes for a caffeinated gel to kick in. Caffeinated gum tastes like, well, gum and because it doesn’t pass through your digestive system, it kicks in almost immediately, the product manufacturers say.
Why haven’t athletes been chewing this stuff forever? Well, caffeine is banned by some associations like the NCAA, and the World Anti Doping Agency only lifted its caffeine-intake limit in 2004.
But that’s an elite class of athletes. What about weekend warriors? Do they need caffeinated gum?
“No one ‘needs’ caffeine,” Smith-Ryan says. “However, it is one of the most effective ingredients when it comes to exercise performance.”
If you’re going to chew, make sure to try a small dose first to see how you react. The average cup of coffee contains around 100 milligrams of caffeine. Some brands, such as Run Gum, contain the same dose, but others such as X8 Energy Gum contain about 50 milligrams.
Also watch for other stimulants in blended pre-workout products that might over-stimulate your system. No one loves suffering from the caffeine crazies mid-run.