Runners Are Being Urged to Limit Caffeine Consumption

By , SparkPeople Blogger
A few years ago you could pick up almost any running or fitness magazine and read about the benefits of consuming caffeine prior to running or exercising. Runners, just like many of you, like to take a swig of their favorite caffeinated beverage before they leave for their morning run. In fact, it's not too uncommon to see runners just before a race downing an extra tall cup of joe before the horn blows. After all, studies have shown that drinking a little caffeine can actually give us some benefit by slowing down the rate of fatigue, keeping us more alert and it may even help ease the pain caused from exercise induced muscle soreness.

However, the running world is being warned about the dangers of consuming too much caffeine before and during a long distance run or race. Doing so can actually have fatal or debilitating consequences, primarily for the longer distance runners who consume caffeinated beverages and then use caffeine based gels, gus or jelly beans as a refueling source during their races or training runs.

Last month, Dr. Lewis G. Maharam, also known as the Running Doc on, put out a notice to runners to carefully monitor their caffeine consumption before and during runs or races of 10K (6.2 miles) or greater distances. This, after the International Marathon Medical Directors (IMMD) began to look into the cause of death and collapse of runners at various races across the world. Unfortunately, those runners who died were unable to give any insight as to their caffeine intake prior to their death. However, the runners who collapsed and were successfully resuscitated have been interviewed and it appears there may be a connection to caffeine consumption and their subsequent collapse. The common denominator for the runners appears to be the amount of caffeine they consumed before and/or during a race. Running experts recommend runners limit their caffeine intake on their run/race day to no more than 200 mg (the equivalent to 2 cups of coffee), however these runners reported to have exceeded this amount.

With so many energy drinks on the market today, not to mention the countless gels, gus and jelly beans containing caffeine, as well as quick access to coffee shops, caffeine is very seldom in short supply. But until more is known if there is a connection between caffeine and the death or collapse rate of long distance runners, tis better to err on the side of less is more.

Do you monitor your caffeine consumption? Will the recent news report from the IMMD discourage you from consuming caffeine based beverages and foods prior to or during your exercise or running?

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I don't drink anything that has caffeine in it. Even when I succumb to a cool Diet Coke, I like the caffeine-free kind. Report
I love my coffee, & especially my homemade lattes. I will not give up my coffee, but will keep consumption to a minimum when I go for my longer runs. After all it is a diuretic which is not something that a runner needs beyond the quick spurt of energy. Thanks for the information, as always. Report
I want to keep my blood pressure down so I try to avoid caffeine. I also limit my caffeine intake so that when I have trouble with my asthma, I can use caffeine to help me breathe. We all need to remember to treat caffeine as a drug. I have always thought that too much of anything is bad. It is much better to moderate your intake of anything. Report
I have been a drinking coffee daily ( 3-6 cups) since I was 16. I continued to drink when it was "bad" for you and was happy when it was "beneificial" I do have to agree that it should not be in place of water... I make a concious effort to have water with every meal & snack. Not a soda drinker so it works Report
I knew there was another reason to dislike coffee! Report
Coffee is an essential part of my morning routine... but I don't exercise in the morning. I stop all caffeine intake by 10AM and don't workout until around 3PM. So... I am not to worried about it... but I certainly won't be picking up a diet soda before my workout anytime soon!!! Report
One of the lifestyle changes I have made in the past year is limiting my normal coffee consumption to 2 cups per day in the morning. I found that when I was drinking more than that I wasn't drinking nearly enough plain water. Report
I wouldn't be motivated to get out of my bed at 4:30 am for my workout if I didn't have visions of coffee dancing in my head. ONCE I was too late to stop for my coffee and the workout was near worthless. Yes, my name is Kathy and I am a caffeine-aholic....... Report
There doesn't seem to be adequate filtering of variables in this study. I would put this one at a step above anecdotal. Report
I could never give up coffee. It is the only fuel that works for me! Report
I am a coffeeholic...good thing I'm just a walker and not a runner. Report
I love my coffee and generally drink several cups a day. I am not yet a long distance runner but I will now be more mindful of the amount of coffee I drink prior to running. Thanks Nancy! Report
I usually only have a cup of black tea in the morning and sometimes green tea in the afternoon. I use to drink coffee every day but now its only rarely. I am just beginning jogging but I have thought to drink some caffeine before I go to get my energy up. Now I will just let the exercise do that! Report
I am NOT a caffeine drinker, but this is definitely a great article with a lot of information. I never realized the health risks that can happen when combined with running. I will pass this along to others I know that DO consume caffeine. Report
I gave up coffee a long time ago and rarely drink soda. So I'm not too worried about my caffiene intake. Of course I also only do 5ks so I probably wouldnt need to worry anyways! Report
I love my morning coffee but the article makes a point here. Thank you so much for writing about this important information. Report
I am koo-koo for coffee. I consume more than I should but I think it's because I like warmth whether it's coffee, the sun, human touch, heating pad, etc. etc.

I've been trying to convince myself that tea has more beneficial properties in it but my courtship with coffee continues and will until I finally decide to do something different.

Thanks for the info. At this time I'm not running, jogging, or even walking for exercise. I shovel snow, roller skate, do videos, etc. IF, by some chance, I can convince myself to "get in gear" and start running 10K+ (I have done this before and could do it again but not likely... 5 miles would work for me) I'll keep in mind my caffiene consumption.

Hi, Coach Nancy...great information, as Report
Wow Report
Two in the morning and that's it! Report
Great article Report
Caffeine and my tummy are not a good mix. When I got serious about exercising I thought I would try the caffeine bit to help me along but all to soon I found out it upsets my stomach and I have a miserable day ahead of me. Not worth it! Report
This thing seems a total nonsense to me.
I think that runners just exceeded in their activity, and all of them did. Probably they tried with coffee just to have some more fuel to shoot. There are no scientific data supporting the theory. Report
In the past, on race days I have not had any more caffeine than my usual two or 3 cups. However, I have used gel during half-marathon or greater distance, and never checked to see if the gel had caffeine. As with other comments, I have also been very concerned with the increased consumption of energy drinks out there. I find it interesting that people have given me a hard time about letting my kids have a half-cup of coffee with lots of milk added, but yet they will allow their kids to consume both soda and energy drinks throughout the day! Report
I had never heard of a caffeine running connection. I recently quit drinking coffee because I was drinking too much and was still tired, and I was getting heartburn.. I let myself have an occasional sugar-free cocoa or a skim chai, but never anywhere near the limits Report
I love a cup of coffee before a run and usually opt for GU with cafffiene on runs longer than 8 miles. I haven't ever looked into how much caffiene I'm getting in the coffee and GU, hopefully not too much! thanks for the great info. Report
Wait until you hit middle age... one cup of coffee can race through your system in no time and you need to take a "comfort break" that scuppers you race time.

No Coffee unless you are staying near a bathroom. Report
Coffee before a run spells bad news for me. I discovered a couple of years ago that if I have coffee before my run, my heart rate increases and I sometimes get palpitations too. It also wreaks havoc on my GI system (I won't go into details ;-p). I didn't touch coffee for over a year now, and I don't miss it. Report
I'll definitely be more careful about caffeine after this. Already, though, I don't overdue it... I run in the morning and usually have my coffee afterward. Report
i love coffee too Report
I have really had to cut back on my caffeine lately because after a few days of 2-4 cups in the morning, I am CRANKY the rest of the day!! I've switched to tea & decaf, and save coffee for the days when I really just can not wake up. This article was really helpful though - I do have coffee before running sometimes and now I'll definitely think twice! Report
I drink coffee before all my runs and my favorite gels have 2x the caffeine in them. I'm not sure I could give them up that easily.

But, these runners that collapsed, were they fast runners or average? Does how fast you run make a difference? If so, I have no worries.... Report
I wonder what else in common they ate prior to a race? Do you think this did in Jim Fixx? I've always wondered why he died. Report
I really love coffee and drink two to three cups in the morning! I'm not planning on quitting anytime in the near future! Report
I drink coffee in the morning and sometimes will have it an hour before a run. During long runs I will use caffeinated jelly beans either an hour before or halfway through... To be honest I don't think I would want to give it up. Report
I started drinking coffee in the last 2 years, due to needing to stay up late for nursing school. I have cut way back on soda, and only drink 1 a day during my 3 days at work. I do have a cup of coffee a day. I just started dabbling in running in the last month or so, and hadn't yet heard about drinking caffeine before a run. I hadn't tried it before this article, and I don't think I will now. Report
Yes, if I'm really able to run again! Report
RE: Coffee -- a few years ago, when my doctor asked how much coffee I drink, my response was 2-3 (pots/day!). At her suggestion, I've cut back to less than a cup of regular a day and drink decaf as my warming beverage. I'm much more relaxed and able to enjoy what I'm doing (even if it's not running!) Report
no caffeine ever for me - Report
That's so good to know!! I knew that too much caffeine wasn't good for you, but didn't realize how many different forms it's available in. Report
I have exactly 1 cup of coffee before runs and in distances half marathon or greater, I usually have a few cola flavoured Shot Bloks. I LOVE the caffeine boost during a race and will never give it up! Report
I am a self-confessed caffeine junkie! When I exercise though, I am careful to monnitor when I have caffeine and get extra water so as not to risk my health. Report
I feel like caffine is something we all should limit. Thanks forthe info! Report
Thankyou for posting this information. I used to drink coffee all day, now its two big cups in the morning only and usually decaf tea and water, but I am not running yet, just walking. I will try to get down to that 'just one' good big cup of coffee though , in preparation for jogging. ( I wouldnt be drinking coffee before a race if I entered one though, water only, and really not much so i didnt have to stop at portapotties either! )
I enjoy my coffee a lot! But I really admire those of you who stopped drinking it - I just don't know if I'm ready for that yet. I love to sit with my cup in the morning and relax! Report
No caffeine before a work-out, but I do drink a high Vitamin C drink!
I am a tad sensitive to caffeine and exercising with the jitters doesn't sound like much fun at all!
I will pass this along to my son though!
Thanks for the info! Report
I gave up coffee a few months ago and I can imagine my heart racing if I drank a caffinated drink before exercise! Report
I do enjoy 2-3 cups of coffee in the morning, and depending on the run determines whether I consume it before or after my run. If I'm doing a short, easy run, I will more than likely have some, if I'm doing a long run, I will wait util I'm done and then treat myself! Report
Yes - I monitor my caffeine and I do drink it. I am a tea tottler - Earl Grey Thank you very much ;-) and on race day no caffeine pre run for me or I agree! I would be stopping at EVERY porta potti! LOL After the race I will go to the local coffee shop and get an Earl Grey though. I tried caffeinated jelly beans once on a LR and whoa Nelly to much juice for me. I stick to decaf sport beans Report
I, too, love coffee in the morning, but I never drink it before exercising. It just doesn't feel good for me. I guess I have been on the right track- thanks for this valuable information I will pass it on to my runner friends. Report
I just love coffee in the morning, too. But if I exercise in the AM I usually wait until I'm finished and cooled down before I have my cup. I don't drink coffee if I have a long run, either. I guess I'm on the right track- Thanks for the information. Report
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