The use of caffeine supplements in athletic and military populations has increased in recent years. Excessive caffeine consumption in conjunction with exercise in a hot environment may predispose individuals to heat illness.
To examine heat balance induced by a large dose of caffeine during exercise in a hot environment.
Ten men, not heat acclimated and not habitual caffeine users, consumed either caffeine (CAF; 9 mg/kg) or placebo (PLA) before performing cycle-ergometer exercise for 30 min at 50% VO2peak in a 40 °C, 25% relative humidity environment while body temperature (core and skin) and ratings of thermal comfort (TC) were monitored. Heat-exchange variables were calculated using partitional calorimetry and thermometry.
Mean body temperature (Tb) was higher (p < .05) with CAF (37.18 ± 0.15 °C) than with PLA (36.93 ± 0.15 °C) at the start of exercise. Heat production was slightly higher (~8 W, p < .05) with CAF. There were no differences in heat storage, dry heat gains, TC, or Tb during exercise.
A caffeine dose of 9 mg/kg does not appreciably alter heat balance during work in a hot environment. The small increase in Tb observed with CAF was undetected by the participants and is unlikely to increase physiological strain sufficiently to affect endurance performance or risk of heat illness.
The authors are with the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Thermal and Mountain Medicine Division, Natick, MA.