Dispelling the myth that habitual caffeine consumption influences the performance response to acute caffeine supplementation

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017 Jul 1;123(1):213-220. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00260.2017. Epub 2017 May 11.


This study investigates the influence of habitual caffeine intake on aerobic exercise-performance responses to acute caffeine supplementation. A double-blind, crossover, counterbalanced study was performed. Forty male endurance-trained cyclists were allocated into tertiles, according to their daily caffeine intake: low (58 ± 29 mg/d), moderate (143 ± 25 mg/d), and high (351 ± 139 mg/d) consumers. Participants completed three trials in which they performed simulated cycling time trials (TTs) in the fastest time possible following ingestion of the following: caffeine (CAF: 6 mg/kg body mass), placebo (PLA), and no supplement (CON). A mixed-model analysis revealed that TT performance was significantly improved in CAF compared with PLA and CON (29.92 ± 2.18 vs. 30.81 ± 2.67 and 31.14 ± 2.71 min, respectively; P = 0.0002). Analysis of covariance revealed no influence of habitual caffeine intake as a covariate on exercise performance (P = 0.47). TT performance was not significantly different among tertiles (P = 0.75). No correlation was observed between habitual caffeine intake and absolute changes (CAF - CON) in TT performance with caffeine (P = 0.524). Individual analysis showed that eight, seven, and five individuals improved above the variation of the test in CAF in the low, moderate, and high tertiles, respectively. A Fisher's exact test did not show any significant differences in the number of individuals who improved in CAF among the tertiles (P > 0.05). Blood lactate and ratings of perceived exertion were not different between trials and tertiles (P > 0.05). Performance effects of acute caffeine supplementation during an ~30-min cycling TT performance were not influenced by the level of habitual caffeine consumption.NEW & NOTEWORTHY There has been a long-standing paradigm that habitual caffeine intake may influence the ergogenicity of caffeine supplementation. Low, moderate, and high caffeine consumers showed similar absolute and relative improvements in cycling time-trial performance following acute supplementation of 6 mg/kg body mass caffeine. Performance effects of acute caffeine were not influenced by the level of habitual caffeine consumption, suggesting that high habitual caffeine intake does not negate the benefits of acute caffeine supplementation.

Keywords: daily consumption; endurance; supplement; time trial.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Bicycling / physiology
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*


  • Caffeine