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Coffee a great summer sports drink

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Athletes sweating it out on a hot day should consider reaching for a nice hot cup of coffee instead of a cold drink.

That is the counter-intuitive discovery made by researchers at the University of Tasmania, who have found that drinking a coffee can deliver a substantial boost to the performance of athletes exercising in hot conditions (35 degrees Celsius).

Previously, caffeine was thought to impair athletic performance in the heat because of its potential to raise the body core temperature, increase the heart rate and cause greater sweating – all adding to the stress of exercising in a hit environment.

But the lead author of the study, Dr Cecilia Shing of the University of Tasmania’s School of Health Sciences, said these adverse responses may have been caused by giving athletes too much caffeine.

In her experiment, a group of cyclists was asked to complete time trials in 35 degree heat – some following a moderate dose of caffeine (three milligrams per kilogram of body weight) and some without.

 “Our study found that a moderate dose of caffeine was around 85 per cent likely to improve the performance of cyclists in a hot environment,” Dr Shing said. “Cyclists who had received a dose of caffeine were completing a time trial on average in approximately 55 minutes, compared to the 60 minutes it took them without the [dose] of caffeine.”

She said the results highlighted the potential of caffeine as an aid to improve the performance of endurance athletes not adapted to the heat who are competing in very hot conditions.

The study has been published in The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Adrian Rollins