The benefits of drinking a caffeinated, high-sugar beverage, such as Coke, toward the latter part of an endurance event, are well documented. Research from many institutions has shown that it helps mobilize fats and sugar into the bloodstream, making it available for use by the athlete, which should improve endurance performance.
However, not everyone's body responds favorably to ingesting caffeinated cola during exercise. Some athletes who are particularly caffeine-sensitive, or ingest excessive amounts of caffeine in any form, will experience negative effects like jitteriness, gastrointestinal distress, and the need to urinate more.
When I did my ultra-endurance runs across states/countries, I used two sources of liquid fuel – water and Gatorade. That's it! I did drink some caffeinated colas after logging my daily miles, but water and Gatorade were primarily my liquid fuel of choice, especially when I was actually putting the rubber to the road. Björn does drink Gatorade and water as he is striding down the road, but unlike me... he likes to include Coke as well.
Increasing numbers of athletes are using Coke to fuel their exercise – and are reporting that it works. Researchers at the Australian Institute of Sport surveyed 11 of the 19 men's cycling teams participating in the U. S. Professional Championships and found that in six of those 11 teams, every single athlete ingested Coke during races. In four other teams, roughly two-thirds of the riders drank Coke. Only one team was Coke-free. Usually, Coke was consumed during the last half of the competitions, which lasted for two to six hours.
Reports show that Coke's carbohydrate content is at about 11 percent, which is considered slightly too high for a sports beverage (exercise scientists have identified 5 to 9 percent as the optimal range for sports-drink carbohydrate concentrations; beyond 9 percent, gastric emptying is retarded, and water may even be dragged into the stomach to dilute the excess carbs, robbing tissues and blood of fluid). Also, Coke offers little in the way of electrolytes, and its carbonation is thought to increase the risk of gastric upsets during exercise. Finally, Coke’s acidic content and artificial colors make it something that some athletes choose to avoid.
Research shows that Coke’s carbohydrate can keep muscles working as glycogen levels decrease, and if Coke is mixed half-and-half with Gatorade (which some athletes do), the resulting mixture possesses a carbohydrate content of about 8.6–8.7 percent, which is within the optimal range of carbohydrate concentrations. Finally, Coke's caffeine cannot be overlooked (a 12-ounce can of Coke has between 30 and 45 mg of caffeine). Caffeine has been shown to be performance-enhancing in a variety of different studies.
With that said, I lift a can of Coke to salute Björn on his running into the state of Nebraska yesterday. You're almost to the halfway point. Well done!
From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso
Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek
Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:
- United States in 2006 (3,260 miles solo in 108 days at age 41)
- Montana in 2008 (620 miles solo in 20 days at age 43)
- Alaska in 2009 (500 miles solo in 18 days at age 44)
- Germany in 2010 (500 miles solo in 21 days at age 45)
- The Mojave Desert in 2011 (506 miles solo in 17 days at age 46)
- Various Photos From Mileposts Gone By
- Students Worldwide Who Ran With Me Virtually
- Roadside Sights From My Running Adventures
- Some Cycling Moments From The Past