Caffeine Increases Work Done above Critical Power, but Not Anaerobic Work

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Abstract

Purpose

The assumption that the curvature constant (W′) of the power–duration relationship represents anaerobic work capacity is a controversial, unresolved question. We investigated if caffeine ingestion could increase total work done above critical power (CP), and if this would be accompanied by greater anaerobic energy expenditure and by an enhanced maintenance of maximal oxidative metabolic rate.

Methods

Nine men (26.6 ± 5.3 yr, V˙O2max 40.6 ± 5.8 mL·kg−1·min−1) cycled until exhaustion at different exercise intensities on different days to determine the CP and W′. On separated days, participants cycled until exhaustion in the severe-intensity domain (136% ± 7% of CP) after ingesting either caffeine (5 mg·kg−1 body mass) or a placebo.

Results

Time to exhaustion was 34% longer with caffeine compared with placebo, and this was accompanied by a greater work done above CP (23.7 ± 5.7 vs 17.5 ± 3.6 kJ; 130% ± 30% vs 95% ± 14% of W′, P < 0.01). Caffeine increased the aerobic energy expenditure (296.4 ± 91.0 vs 210.2 ± 71.9 kJ, P < 0.01), but not anaerobic lactic, anaerobic alactic, and total anaerobic (lactic + alactic) energy expenditure. The end values of heart rate and ventilation were higher with caffeine, but the V˙O2 end was similar between conditions and was not different from V˙O2max. Caffeine did not change time to reach V˙O2max but increased time maintained at V˙O2max (199.3 ± 105.9 vs 111.9 ± 87.1 s, P < 0.05).

Conclusions

Caffeine increased total work done above CP, but this was not associated with greater anaerobic work. Rather, this was associated with a higher tolerance to maintain exercise at maximal oxidative metabolic rate.

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