Caffeine – Friend or foe for table tennis players?

Caffeine and its effects and benefits have been studied widely and even more so the effect of caffeine on sports performance, despite this there are still several myths and misconceptions to the exact results of caffeine in the body. Caffeine carries a somewhat negative reputation, being essentially a stimulant, people site dehydration, anxiety and insomnia as reasons to avoid it but these symptoms are generally down to misuse or have been proven incorrect. Plenty of athletes across many sports use caffeine to their advantage and when used in the right manner can have a positive impact on performance for table tennis players too.

Caffeine has many positive effects that are beneficial in both endurance events but also in high intensity events like table tennis which occur over a relatively short period of time. Not only the obvious effect of increased physical performance caffeine has also been proven to have the effects of: increased attention, increased memory performance, increased muscle recovery as well as decreased risk of heart and liver disease. All of which would be hugely beneficial to table tennis players. It has also been shown caffeine can also help improve endurance which would be fantastic over a long weekend tournament or day of matches, it does this through adapting the way our bodies use stored energy and blocking a chemical called adenosine which makes you feel tired.

For table tennis players considering caffeine as a performance enhancer before a training or tournament you should remember everyone varies in their tolerance to it. Whilst a larger amount might be ideal for some players others will find themselves over stimulated, so you must learn the amount that suits you individually, if any at all. Only a moderate dose is required to have an effect and there’s no evidence that higher doses will have a greater impact. The dosage should be 1-3mg per kg of body weight which equates to 70-210mg (A large coffee) of caffeine for a 68kg player. It’s worth noting that this type of dosage is well below the level at which research suggests caffeine can have any negative effects so even a small amount of caffeine can have the positive benefits stated. You should have your caffeine hit between 20-60 minutes before starting your session/match. Obviously, caffeine over use is not a good idea and consuming it 2-3 hours before you sleep is not recommended. There are several ways to get your intake, most table tennis players won’t want to drink a high sugar caffeine drink such as red bull before they play (I certainly wouldn’t recommend it) and if you’re not a fan of coffee there are always caffeine tablets available to get your hit.

Even with all the bad press and reputation it has, caffeine may not be an enemy after all, so If you’re feeling lethargic and looking for that performance edge to win those tight matches perhaps our friend caffeine is worth a try!

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