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Old 02-19-2009, 10:48 PM   #1
Donald Lee
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Default Caffeine and Endurance

I did a PFT (Physical Fitness Test) yesterday for the Marines, and I absolutely bombed the run. I am wondering whether drinking coffee a couple hours prior might have had a negative effect.

I just read an article from Rice University, which talks about the potential benefits of caffeine for endurance events but not anaerobic events. It basically says that caffeine triggers increased fat utilization, which could save more glycogen for later in the race. Personally, I thought caffeine energized me for when I lifted weights.

I rarely drink coffee, and I had never drunk coffee before anything endurance-related. I drank coffee the day before also, so I have not really developed a tolerance to the effects of caffeine. I can even feel the effects of caffeine from drinking green tea.

The article also mentioned possible dehydration and abdominal cramps if you're not used to caffeine intake.

I preface all this caffeine-talk with a couple things. I had not run for 1 and a half weeks prior to the PFT because of pain in my shins and feet. Prior to that, I was running pretty well on my intervals. I expected to run around a 23 min time. Also, I never do high rep ab exercises, so the crunches absolutely killed me. I was going really well on the crunches up until about 70 reps. I was pacing myself and at that point I decided to take a breather. This was a big mistake, because after the breather, I could only do 1 rep at a time. I only got to 85, when usually I can do 100 with about 30 sec to spare. I guess this is counter to what the T-Nation article suggested, but whatever.

On the first half mile of the run, my legs felt EXTREMELY heavy, but I went at a pretty brisk pace. Then, I just couldn't do it anymore. My legs felt so heavy that I was barely jogging. I couldn't run POSE at all. After about 1.5 miles, I began to experience extreme abdominal cramping, which I supposed was caused by the crunches, but maybe the caffeine could have contributed to that. I was definitely not dehydrated, because I drank a lot of water and pissed twice before the PFT.

I ended up running the 3 miles in 33:35, which is pathetically slow. I am looking for answers as to what could have possibly gone wrong. I could have not trained running at all and ran faster than that.

I'm more wondering about the heavy legs than the cramping, because I'm sure the crunches contributed to that.
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Old 02-19-2009, 11:59 PM   #2
Steven Low
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Yeah, that's pretty junky. I always felt it was more anaerobic than aerobic as well.

Caffeine also "delays" fatigue by blocking some adenosine pathways in the CNS.
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Old 02-20-2009, 05:43 AM   #3
Garrett Smith
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First rule--never do anything out of your ordinary routine on testing/competition day.
Quote:
The article also mentioned possible dehydration and abdominal cramps if you're not used to caffeine intake.
Stuff like you mentioned above is why.

Were you running in boots? If you were, and you don't train running in boots, that could cause a problem.

It sounds to me like you need to make your training a bit more specific to this test (if it is important to you).

When I see cramping, I think magnesium first, potassium second.

Just because you drank a lot of water doesn't mean you are "hydrated".

How was your sleep in the day/week before this test?

It could just also have been a crappy day for you, but I bet we could ferret out why it happened.
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Old 02-20-2009, 06:17 AM   #4
Mike ODonnell
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When's the last time you did a workout before that? Getting enough sleep? Stressed out?

My best runs (or skates) are after not working out for 3+ days and having some caffeine.

Sometimes your legs are dead....sometimes they feel like a million bucks. Your CNS is a funny thing.
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Old 02-20-2009, 08:28 AM   #5
Donald Lee
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I wasn't in my best condition going in to the PFT. And, it wasn't done in boots. I had been running in my Vibrams, but I purchased the Mizuno Wave Universe 2.0 for the PFT. I had a normal workout week, minus the running because of the pain I had in my shins and feet. Then, on Saturday I wrestled with some friends and stayed out late. I was stressed and not fully recovered so I took Sun - Tues off for the Wed PFT. I didn't get a good night's sleep for the PFT because I had to wake up at 4 am and drive 1.5 hrs down to San Diego.

I had some eggs and a banana in the morning, so I don't think potassium was an issue with the cramping. Do you think that the cold weather made my legs heavy? I couldn't do POSE running at all because my legs were dead. Maybe the crunches fatigued my hip flexors? I usually run after 9 am, so usually it's not too cold. With the PFT, I didn't have my usual warmup jog and it was 7 am, so it was pretty cold. I did a lot of joint mobility work to warmup though.

Anyways, I think I had a Mark Twight moment for like the second time, except this time I wasn't CrossFitting. I think I actually need to build up my aerobic base again before I focus most of my running on interval training. I guess specificity, even for training for the military, can be pretty important.

Another sad thing about this is that I'm incredibly sore in my shins, feet, and quads from running that slow.
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Old 02-20-2009, 08:48 AM   #6
Craig Loizides
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A couple articles on caffeine and performance:

http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/0652.htm

http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/caffeine-effects.html

1 recommends for endurance and 1 for short events

But, like Dr. G said, nothing new on race day.
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Old 02-20-2009, 05:19 PM   #7
Mike Prevost
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Your problem was almost certainly not the caffeine. It is likely that you just did not have the conditioning to do it any faster. You are going to need more run training to get your time down. However, you have to deal with your feet and shin issues first. You are probably going to need a SLOW build up in mileage. I don't think you need too much mileage to get the job done but obviously you are going to need more than the intervals you are doing now. When I was working with the USMC I was running sub 18 min on 10-12 miles per week at 200 lbs. Part of that was hard running in the hills though.
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Old 02-20-2009, 05:47 PM   #8
George Mounce
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I actually like caffeine (usually espresso or coffee) before I work out with a tsp of honey. I always seem to feel really great throughout the workout.
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Old 02-20-2009, 10:48 PM   #9
Donald Lee
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Prevost View Post
Your problem was almost certainly not the caffeine. It is likely that you just did not have the conditioning to do it any faster. You are going to need more run training to get your time down. However, you have to deal with your feet and shin issues first. You are probably going to need a SLOW build up in mileage. I don't think you need too much mileage to get the job done but obviously you are going to need more than the intervals you are doing now. When I was working with the USMC I was running sub 18 min on 10-12 miles per week at 200 lbs. Part of that was hard running in the hills though.
Something went horribly wrong, whether it was the coffee or not. I am sure I have the conditioning to run faster than 33:35. I could do that with zero running. I was hoping for about 23 min.

On a side note, I was doing the interval protocol in one of Brian MacKenzie's CFJ articles, prescribing 8 x 200 m intervals (total 1 mile) with 3 min rest and lowering the rest until you get down to 1 min. Then, you lower the interval time by 1-2 sec and up the rest again and work back down to 1 min. According to those calculations, I started off based on a 24 min 3-mile time. I started at 3 min rest and worked down to 1 min rest. It was all easy until I did the intervals with 1 min rest, which caused all my recent leg problems (probably because I was already tired that day).

I am wondering whether with a protocol such as this, whether I should have had a good aerobic base prior to implementing this.
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Old 02-20-2009, 11:48 PM   #10
Donald Lee
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Craig Loizides View Post
A couple articles on caffeine and performance:

http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/0652.htm

http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/caffeine-effects.html

1 recommends for endurance and 1 for short events

But, like Dr. G said, nothing new on race day.
Thanks for the links.
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