The Effects of Caffeine on Arousal, Response Time, Accuracy, and Performance in Division I Collegiate Fencers

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Doyle, TP, Lutz, RS, Pellegrino, JK, Sanders, DJ, and Arent, SM. The effects of caffeine on arousal, response time, accuracy, and performance in Division I collegiate fencers. J Strength Cond Res 30(11): 3228–3235, 2016—Caffeine has displayed ergogenic effects on aerobic performance. However, sports requiring precision and quick reaction may also be impacted by central nervous system arousal because of caffeine consumption. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of caffeine on arousal, response time (RT), and accuracy during a simulated fencing practice. Using a randomized, within-subjects, placebo-controlled, double-blind design, Division I male and female college fencers (N = 13; 69.1 ± 3.5 kg) were administered caffeine doses of 0, 1.5, 3.0, 4.5, 6.0, or 7.5 mg·kg−1 during separate testing days. Performance was assessed via RT and accuracy to a 4-choice reaction task. A total of 25 trials were performed each day using a random 2- to 8-s delay between trials. Arousal was assessed using the activation-deactivation adjective check list. Results of repeated-measures multivariate analysis of variance revealed a significant dose effect (p = 0.02) on performance. Follow-up analyses indicated this was due to a significant effect for RT (p = 0.03), with the dose-response curve exhibiting a quadratic relationship. Response time was significantly faster (p < 0.01) for the 1.5, 3.0, and 6.0 mg·kg−1 conditions than for the placebo condition. Results also indicated a significant dose effect for composite RT + accuracy performance (p < 0.01). The dose-response curve was again quadratic, with performance beginning to deteriorate at 7.5 mg·kg−1. Energetic arousal, tiredness, tension, and calmness all significantly changed as a function of caffeine dose (p ≤ 0.05). Based on these results, caffeine improves RT and overall performance in fencers, particularly as doses increase up to 4.5–6.0 mg·kg−1. Above this level, performance begins to deteriorate, consistent with an “inverted-U” model of arousal and performance.

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