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The purpose of this experiment was to learn whether low doses of caffeine have ergogenic, perceptual, and metabolic effects during cycling. To determine the effects of 1, 2, and 3 mg/kg caffeine on cycling performance, differentiated ratings of perceived exertion (D-RPE), quadriceps pain intensity, and metabolic responses to cycling exercise, 13 cyclists exercised on a stationary ergometer for 15 min at 80% VO2peak, then, after 4 min of active recovery, completed a 15-min performance ride 60 min after ingesting caffeine or placebo. Work done (kJ/kg) during the performance ride was used as a measure of performance. D-RPE, pain ratings, and expired-gas data were obtained every 3 min, and blood lactate concentrations were obtained at 15 and 30 min. Compared with placebo, caffeine doses of 2 and 3 mg/kg increased performance by 4% (95% CI: 1.0–6.8%, p = .02) and 3% (95% CI: –0.4% to 6.8%, p = .077), respectively. These effects were ergogenic, on average, but varied considerably in magnitude among individual cyclists. There were no effects of caffeine on D-RPE or pain throughout the cycling task. Selected metabolic variables were affected by caffeine, consistent with its known actions. The authors conclude that caffeine preparations of 2 and 3 mg/kg enhanced performance, but future work should aim to explain the considerable interindividual variability of the drug’s ergogenic properties.

The authors are with the Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.