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PLoS One. 2016 Aug 17;11(8):e0161375. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0161375. eCollection 2016.

The Effects of Caffeine Supplementation on Physiological Responses to Submaximal Exercise in Endurance-Trained Men.

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School of Sport, Health, and Applied Sciences, St Mary's University, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, United Kingdom.
Department of Physical Education, Sport & Human Movement, Autonomous University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.
Cardiff School of Health Sciences, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.



The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of caffeine on physiological responses to submaximal exercise, with a focus on blood lactate concentration ([BLa]).


Using a randomised, single-blind, crossover design; 16 endurance-trained, male cyclists (age: 38 ± 8 years; height: 1.80 ± 0.05 m; body mass: 76.6 ± 7.8 kg; [Formula: see text]: 4.3 ± 0.6 L∙min-1) completed four trials on an electromagnetically-braked cycle ergometer. Each trial consisted of a six-stage incremental test (3 minute stages) followed by 30 minutes of passive recovery. One hour before trials 2-4, participants ingested a capsule containing 5 mg∙kg-1 of either caffeine or placebo (maltodextrin). Trials 2 and 3 were designed to evaluate the effects of caffeine on various physiological responses during exercise and recovery. In contrast, Trial 4 was designed to evaluate the effects of caffeine on [BLa] during passive recovery from an end-exercise concentration of 4 mmol∙L-1.


Relative to placebo, caffeine increased [BLa] during exercise, independent of exercise intensity (mean difference: 0.33 ± 0.41 mmol∙L-1; 95% likely range: 0.11 to 0.55 mmol∙L-1), but did not affect the time-course of [BLa] during recovery (p = 0.604). Caffeine reduced ratings of perceived exertion (mean difference: 0.5 ± 0.7; 95% likely range: 0.1 to 0.9) and heart rate (mean difference: 3.6 ± 4.2 b∙min-1; 95% likely range: 1.3 to 5.8 b∙min-1) during exercise, with the effect on the latter dissipating as exercise intensity increased. Supplement × exercise intensity interactions were observed for respiratory exchange ratio (p = 0.004) and minute ventilation (p = 0.034).


The results of the present study illustrate the clear, though often subtle, effects of caffeine on physiological responses to submaximal exercise. Researchers should be aware of these responses, particularly when evaluating the physiological effects of various experimental interventions.

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