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Caffeine Use and Athletic Performance

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.



is a stimulant that gives you a burst of energy and keeps you awake. Caffeine can also raise your blood pressure and heart rate. Caffeine occurs naturally in cocoa beans, tea leaves, and coffee beans. It is also added to drinks, food, supplements, medicines, and herbal products. Some athletes use caffeine to improve their performance in sports activities.

How caffeine affects an athlete's performance:

  • Scientists believe that caffeine increases an athlete's energy and endurance levels during long-term activities. Endurance is your ability to exercise for long periods of time or over long distances.
  • Caffeine does not affect everyone the same way. It may cause you to feel like you have more energy and can exercise harder and longer. Instead, it may cause you to feel too jittery or nervous to do well during sports activities.

Side effects of caffeine:

Large amounts of caffeine may cause an upset stomach, shakiness, dizziness, headaches, and trouble focusing and sleeping. The amount of caffeine that would cause these side effects depends on how sensitive you are to caffeine. It also depends on how much caffeine you normally have. You may have side effects with only 1 cup of coffee if you normally do not have caffeine. These side effects may be even worse if you normally get nervous or jittery before a sports activity.

Safe intake of caffeine:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider before using caffeine to improve your sports performance. Your healthcare provider can recommend a safe amount, especially if you normally do not have caffeine. Organizations that regulate competitive sports have rules about the amount of caffeine that can be taken by athletes. Talk to regulation authorities of your sport to find out how much you can have.
  • If you want to try caffeine, start with a small amount. Scientists believe that a dose (amount) of 3 to 6 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg) can improve performance. To figure out how much caffeine to take, figure out your weight in kilograms first. To do this, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. For example, a weight of 154 pounds equals 70 kilograms. A person with this weight who starts with 3 mg/kg of caffeine would multiply 70 by 3. This athlete would take 210 mg of caffeine.

Caffeine in food, beverages, and medicines:

Caffeine is measured in milligrams (mg). The following list shows the general amount of caffeine that is found in foods, beverages, and medicines. Different brands may have slightly different amounts of caffeine.

  • 16 ounces of energy drinks: 50 mg to 500 mg
  • 12 ounces of caffeinated soda: 23 to 64 mg
  • 5 ounces of coffee (brewed, drip): 60 to 150 mg
  • 6 ounces of instant coffee: 74 mg
  • 5 ounces of brewed tea: 40 to 80 mg
  • 8 ounces of instant tea: 20 to 30 mg
  • 1 bar (41 grams) of dark chocolate: 31 mg
  • 1 ounce of milk chocolate: 1 to 15 mg
  • 5 ounces of hot cocoa: 1 to 8 mg
  • 4 ounces of coffee ice cream: 1 to 45 grams
  • Weight loss medicine: 300 mg
  • Medicines for drowsiness: 200 mg
  • Pain relievers: 64 to 130 mg
  • Medicine for premenstrual symptoms: 120 mg

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.