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The caffeine in a cup of coffee could help improve athletic endurance, according to a new University of Georgia study. Authored by Simon Higgins, a third-year doctoral student in kinesiology at the College of Education at the university, the study was published inInternational Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

To research the issue, Higgins reviewed more than 600 scholarly articles and screened them for those that focused only on caffeinated-coffee conditions, measured the caffeine dose and measured an endurance performance. Of these, nine randomized control trials specifically used coffee to improve endurance. “Previous research has focused on caffeine itself as an aid to improve endurance,” he said. “Coffee is a popular source of caffeine, so this paper looked at the research surrounding its ergogenic benefits.”

Looking at the nine trials, Higgins found that coffee increased endurance performance by an average of 24 per cent. “This is helpful for athletes because coffee is a naturally occurring compound,” he said. “Getting your caffeine by drinking coffee has similar endurance benefits to taking caffeine pills.”

When researching the effects of caffeine from coffee, Higgins and his colleagues made two important discoveries: that caffeine from coffee has ergogenic benefits – that it enhances physical performance – and that more research is needed on the use of caffeine from coffee versus pure caffeine use. “While there is a lack of high-quality research on coffee as a source of caffeine, there is an abundance of research on pure caffeine,” he said. “It’s surprising how little we know about caffeine from coffee when its endurance effects could be just as beneficial as pure caffeine.”

Higgins says that more research is needed before giving official recommendations to athletes, especially since the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee can vary depending on how it’s prepared.

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