Top Five Takeaways about Consumers, Caffeine, and Athletic Performance

The conversation regarding caffeine continues to generate public attention and, in many cases, public concern. Specifically, the dialogue regarding caffeine safety, sources, and recommended amounts will likely continue to fuel attention on this highly studied and globally regulated food additive.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Spotlight Survey: Caffeine reveals that caffeine is enjoyed by most Americans daily. Given caffeine’s potential benefits as well as potential risks, the IFIC Expert Webinar, “Caffeine for Athletic Performance: Friend or Foe?” explored how caffeine can contribute to athletic performance and addressed the potential for overexposure. Here are the top takeaways from the webinar, featuring Jessica Isaacs, RD, CSSD, also known as the Sports RD.

1. Athletes commonly consume caffeine as part of their diet. 

According to Jessica, Athletes consume caffeine as part of a regimented dietary plan with an effective dosage typically ranging 3-6 mg/kg of bodyweight. To maximize the benefit to athletic performance, athletes generally consume caffeine 30-60 minutes before the start of activity.

2. How you metabolize caffeine is based on the individual- even for performance athletes. 

Some athletes are fast responders and benefit from moderate caffeine intake. However, some athletes are considered slow or intermediate metabolizers of caffeine and may not experience the same benefits, to the same magnitude, and could even see impairments in performance with caffeine intake. It is important to adopt individualized strategies that consider an athlete’s response and tolerance to caffeine intake.

3. In addition to athletes, caffeine is enjoyed by most Americans.

Among the 88% of Americans who consume caffeine, thirty percent cited “it’s part of my routine” followed by “I enjoy the taste of the products that contain caffeine” (21%) as top consumption drivers. Nearly one-third of those that consume caffeine (30%) look to caffeine for energy, citing that “it gives me a quick boost of energy” (17%) and “it makes me feel awake/alert for longer periods of time” (13%). Other reasons for consuming caffeine include “it’s in the products I like” (11%) and “it’s calming” (6%).

4. Most consumers cannot translate milligrams or cups of coffee into a safe amount of caffeine to consume.

For healthy, non-pregnant adults, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes 400 milligrams caffeine per day, or about four or five, eight-ounce cups of coffee, as an amount generally safe to consume. However, when asked to determine a safe amount of caffeine in milligrams to consume daily, only 6% of Americans correctly selected 400 mg/day. Less than 10% accurately determined a safe amount of daily caffeine consumption when asked to translate milligrams to 8 oz. cups of coffee.

 5. Consumers trust different sources for accurate information about caffeine safety.

When asked “If you were looking for accurate information about the safety of consuming caffeine, which of the following would you trust the most?”, 26% report trusting government agencies followed by 21% trusting food and beverage companies. In comparison, 14% report trusting NGOs/consumer organizations followed by colleges and universities (12%). Eighteen percent are “not sure” who they would trust most to provide accurate information about the safety of consuming caffeine. While most may trust government entities for information about caffeine safety, it is important that consumers get the same credible science-based information from those they trust the most.

For more information about caffeine safety, sources, and amounts, please visit IFIC’s Caffeine Website and Caffeine Calculator. To watch the webinar, click here.