Caffeine is the most commonly consumed drug in the world, and athletes frequently use it as an ergogenic aid. It improves performance and endurance during prolonged, exhaustive exercise. To a lesser degree it also enhances short-term, high-intensity athletic performance. Caffeine improves concentration, reduces fatigue, and enhances alertness. Habitual intake does not diminish caffeine's ergogenic properties. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain the physiologic effects of caffeine, but adenosine receptor antagonism most likely accounts for the primary mode of action. It is relatively safe and has no known negative performance effects, nor does it cause significant dehydration or electrolyte imbalance during exercise. Routine caffeine consumption may cause tolerance or dependence, and abrupt discontinuation produces irritability, mood shifts, headache, drowsiness, or fatigue. Major sport governing bodies ban excessive use of caffeine, but current monitoring techniques are inadequate, and ethical dilemmas persist regarding caffeine intake by athletes.
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© 2003 American College of Sports Medicine