If you’re slugging energy drinks left and right all day long, you’re priming yourself for insomnia, nervousness, and overstimulation. It’s inevitable: The typical can of the energy-amping elixir can yield about 74mg of caffeine and upwards of 111mg, per the USDA. However, if you’re smart with when and how often you sip, an energy drink prior to a race might boost your performance, according to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. While it’s not exactly “news,” that caffeine helps you work out harder, take a look at the specifics of this study and learn how you can apply these new findings to your own running routine.
Eighteen recreational endurance runners (13 men, 5 women) ranging in age from 20 to 24 were randomly assigned to supplement with 500ml of Red Bull (note: an 8.4fl oz can has 250mL and a 20fl oz can has 591mL) or a non-caffeinated, sugar-free placebo 60 minutes before running a 5K time trial on a treadmill. A week later, they repeated the protocol.
Participants’ rate of perceived exertion (overall, as well as how difficult they felt their chest and legs were working) and general affect (the felt influence of the energy drink or placebo) was observed 5 minutes after the 5K. Heart rate was recorded during multiple points: at rest, 1 hour before consumption, at 5-minute intervals during the 5K time trial, and immediately after the run. Distance covered at 5-minute intervals was also noted.
Turns out Red Bull—or any energy drink containing caffeine, glucose, and taurine—really can deliver the kick you need to perform better. Runners who guzzled the energy drink a full hour before the workout ran faster than those who took the placebo. Energy-drinking runners ran the 3.1 miles in 23.5 minutes (give or take 2.8 minutes) versus the placebo-consuming participants who ran it in 24.0 (give or take 2.9 minutes). So, they essentially shaved 30 seconds of their time, which is pretty legit when we’re talking about such a short distance. (There weren’t any huge differences seen in perceived exertion, affect, or the distance covered at 5-minute splits between the two time trials.)
What’s more, other research, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, came to similar conclusions with energy drinks and sport performance. This four-year study discovered athletes (climbers, swimmers, basketball, rugby, volleyball, tennis, footballers, and hockey players) experienced a three to seven percent increase in their performance and reported feeling stronger after drinking an energy drink.
Just don’t make this an everyday occurrence, like we said. Shaving off some seconds isn’t worth the detriment to your mind and body.