The Effects of Red Bull Energy Drink Compared With Caffeine on Cycling Time-Trial Performance

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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This study investigated the ergogenic effects of a commercial energy drink (Red Bull) or an equivalent dose of anhydrous caffeine in comparison with a noncaffeinated control beverage on cycling performance. Eleven trained male cyclists (31.7 ± 5.9 y 82.3 ± 6.1 kg, V̇O2max = 60.3 ± 7.8 mL · kg–1 · min–1) participated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-design study involving 3 experimental conditions. Participants were randomly administered Red Bull (9.4 mL/kg body mass [BM] containing 3 mg/kg BM caffeine), anhydrous caffeine (3 mg/kg BM given in capsule form), or a placebo 90 min before commencing a time trial equivalent to 1 h cycling at 75% peak power output. Carbohydrate and fluid volumes were matched across all trials. Performance improved by 109 ± 153 s (2.8%, P = .039) after Red Bull compared with placebo and by 120 ± 172 s (3.1%, P = .043) after caffeine compared with placebo. No significant difference (P > .05) in performance time was detected between Red Bull and caffeine treatments. There was no significant difference (P > .05) in mean heart rate or rating of perceived exertion among the 3 treatments. This study demonstrated that a moderate dose of caffeine consumed as either Red Bull or in anhydrous form enhanced cycling time-trial performance. The ergogenic benefits of Red Bull energy drink are therefore most likely due to the effects of caffeine, with the other ingredients not likely to offer additional benefit.

Quinlivan is with the Melbourne Medical School, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia. Irwin, Grant, Anoopkumar-Dukie, and Desbrow are with the Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia. Skinner and Leveritt are with the School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Address author correspondence to Ben Desbrow at b.desbrow@griffith.edu.au.