Caffeine ingestion and cycling power output in a low or normal muscle glycogen state

Lane, Stephen C., Areta, Jose L., Bird, Stephen R., Coffey, Vernon G., Burke, Louise M., Desbrow, Ben, Karagounis, Leonidas G., & Hawley, John A. (2013) Caffeine ingestion and cycling power output in a low or normal muscle glycogen state. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 45(8), pp. 1577-1584.

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Commencing selected workouts with low muscle glycogen availability augments several markers of training adaptation compared with undertaking the same sessions with normal glycogen content. However, low glycogen availability reduces the capacity to perform high-intensity (>85% of peak aerobic power (V·O2peak)) endurance exercise. We determined whether a low dose of caffeine could partially rescue the reduction in maximal self-selected power output observed when individuals commenced high-intensity interval training with low (LOW) compared with normal (NORM) glycogen availability.


Twelve endurance-trained cyclists/triathletes performed four experimental trials using a double-blind Latin square design. Muscle glycogen content was manipulated via exercise–diet interventions so that two experimental trials were commenced with LOW and two with NORM muscle glycogen availability. Sixty minutes before an experimental trial, subjects ingested a capsule containing anhydrous caffeine (CAFF, 3 mg-1·kg-1 body mass) or placebo (PLBO). Instantaneous power output was measured throughout high-intensity interval training (8 × 5-min bouts at maximum self-selected intensity with 1-min recovery).


There were significant main effects for both preexercise glycogen content and caffeine ingestion on power output. LOW reduced power output by approximately 8% compared with NORM (P < 0.01), whereas caffeine increased power output by 2.8% and 3.5% for NORM and LOW, respectively, (P < 0.01).


We conclude that caffeine enhanced power output independently of muscle glycogen concentration but could not fully restore power output to levels commensurate with that when subjects commenced exercise with normal glycogen availability. However, the reported increase in power output does provide a likely performance benefit and may provide a means to further enhance the already augmented training response observed when selected sessions are commenced with reduced muscle glycogen availability.

It has long been known that endurance training induces a multitude of metabolic and morphological adaptations that improve the resistance of the trained musculature to fatigue and enhance endurance capacity and/or exercise performance (13). Accumulating evidence now suggests that many of these adaptations can be modified by nutrient availability (9–11,21). Growing evidence suggests that training with reduced muscle glycogen using a “train twice every second day” compared with a more traditional “train once daily” approach can enhance the acute training response (29) and markers representative of endurance training adaptation after short-term (3–10 wk) training interventions (8,16,30). Of note is that the superior training adaptation in these previous studies was attained despite a reduction in maximal self-selected power output (16,30). The most obvious factor underlying the reduced intensity during a second training bout is the reduction in muscle glycogen availability. However, there is also the possibility that other metabolic and/or neural factors may be responsible for the power drop-off observed when two exercise bouts are performed in close proximity. Regardless of the precise mechanism(s), there remains the intriguing possibility that the magnitude of training adaptation previously reported in the face of a reduced training intensity (Hulston et al. (16) and Yeo et al.) might be further augmented, and/or other aspects of the training stimulus better preserved, if power output was not compromised.

Caffeine ingestion is a possible strategy that might “rescue” the aforementioned reduction in power output that occurs when individuals commence high-intensity interval training (HIT) with low compared with normal glycogen availability. Recent evidence suggests that, at least in endurance-based events, the maximal benefits of caffeine are seen at small to moderate (2–3 mg·kg-1 body mass (BM)) doses (for reviews, see Refs. (3,24)). Accordingly, in this study, we aimed to determine the effect of a low dose of caffeine (3 mg·kg-1 BM) on maximal self-selected power output during HIT commenced with either normal (NORM) or low (LOW) muscle glycogen availability. We hypothesized that even under conditions of low glycogen availability, caffeine would increase maximal self-selected power output and thereby partially rescue the reduction in training intensity observed when individuals commence HIT with low glycogen availability.

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ID Code: 63939
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31828af183
ISSN: 0195-9131
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > HUMAN MOVEMENT AND SPORTS SCIENCE (110600) > Exercise Physiology (110602)
Deposited On: 07 Nov 2013 22:25
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2013 21:48

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