Seven men were studied during maximal cycle ergometer exercise, to assess the effects of a single or continuous caffeine ingestion on performance and catecholamine secretion. A single blind and randomised procedure was followed with three trials at 100 +/- 5% VO2 max until exhaustion. The first trial was performed after a single administration of 250 mg of caffeine (a). The second and third trials were performed after a treatment of 5 days with 250 mg caffeine per day (continuous = c) and after placebo (p). a and c caffeine administration, 60 min prior to exercise, did not significantly change the time to exhaustion, but increased the plasma levels of both epinephrine (E) and norepinephrine (NE) at exhaustion (p less than 0.05). Single ingestion of caffeine accelerated the elimination of E and NE and increased the maximal blood lactic acid. These data suggest that both single and continuous administration of caffeine do not enhance performance during maximal cycle ergometer exercise, but do increase the exercise response of catecholamine. Only a single administration modifies the blood lactate accumulation.