Caffeine Intake & The Effect on Football Performance

Article written by: Ferda Karaburun

Players and performance coaches continue to search for performance enhancement products in order to elevate individual and collective performance. Nutritionists around the world for a number of years, have promoted the use of the well-known and much consumed substance caffeine to psychologically influence performance as it is the most consumed psychoactive substance in the world.

Caffeine is commonly found in coffee, tea, carbonated drinks, and other such nutritional supplements with low doses (200 mg/day or 2-3 mg/kg/day) being suggested to improve alertness, mood and cognitive performance.

coffee with grass background

Why is caffeine used as a performance enhancer?

Caffeine is absorbed rapidly in the body and is then metabolized in the liver to theophylline, theobromine, and paraxanthin. Caffeine dissolves in fat, providing quick access to the brain and other tissues. Caffeine can be detected in the blood within 15 minutes after ingestion and reaches its highest levels within 1 hour. Caffeine is cleared from the system within 1-12 hours, depending on the individual’s CYP1A2 activity (Esposito, Teta, & Teta, 2020).

Acute caffeine intake (3-6 mg/kg) 60 minutes before prolonged endurance exercise may increase performance, increase time to fatigue, increase working capacity, and reduce perceived effort. In addition, some studies indicate that caffeine consumption; showed positive effects on fast running performance, endurance and power (vertical jump performance). Caffeine consumption in moderate doses (up to 400 mg/day) by healthy adults is considered safe without evidence of associated side effects and evidence of some health benefits (Ferreira, Trexler, Jaffe, & Cholewa, 2017).

Human anatomy illustration

A systematic review of the effect of caffeine supplementation on performance in football players, it was stated that acute caffeine intake with moderate doses of caffeine before exercise has the capacity to develop several soccer-related abilities and skills, such as vertical jump height, repeated sprinting ability, running distances during the game and passing accuracy. Likewise, it has been shown so far that single and acute doses of caffeine do not have a negative effect on the increase of variables related to muscle damage in official matches (Ayuso, Gonzalez, Coso, Urdampilleta, Guereño, & Lázaro, 2019).

Prevalence of caffeine use

In a study conducted; It shows that caffeine use is common in English professional football leagues in 35 of 36 clubs.

  • 97% of the clubs sampled reported that they provided players with caffeine as a way to improve performance, and about half of the clubs reported providing caffeine to players for more than 3 years. (Tallis, et al., 2021)
Premier league football logo on a smartphone screen

Caffeine dosage

Caffeine consumption has an effect on performance when taken at a dose of 6 mg/kg body weight 15 to 60 minutes before exercise  (Esposito, Teta, & Teta, 2020).

Based on previous research with other different forms of exercise or soccer, it may be suggested that doses below 2 mg of caffeine per kg of body mass might not be effective to increase soccer physical performance (Ayuso, Gonzalez, Coso, Urdampilleta, Guereño, & Lázaro, 2019).

  • It was stated that the relative dose range provided by clubs that administer caffeine to football players is between 2 mg/kg and 6 mg/kg, and the most common use is 3 mg/kg. In addition, energy gels, carbohydrate drinks, and electrolyte drinks are the most commonly used supplements along with caffeine(Tallis, et al., 2021).


The fact that caffeinated gum has a faster absorption time is an advantage, but because it contains a lower dose (100 mg/piece), it can be difficult for athletes to get enough caffeine at 3 to 6 mg/kg. Consumption of three pieces or more of gum may be required for ergogenic dose (Anderson, 2017).

Time caffeine consumed prior to a game

After a comprehensive review of the effects of caffeine on sport-specific endurance performance in studies, it was concluded that to maximize performance benefits, caffeine should be consumed no more than 60 minutes before exercise. In addition, it was concluded that caffeine can be consumed during exercise and still improve performance  (Anderson, 2017).

  • It has been stated that the timing of caffeine consumption before the match varies between 15-90 minutes and is the most frequently used timing strategy 30-45 minutes before kick-off (Tallis, et al., 2021).


The optimal timing of caffeine intake probably depends on the source of caffeine. For example, compared to caffeine capsules, caffeinated gums may require a shorter waiting period after consumption until the beginning of the exercise session (Guest, et al., 2021).

Caffeinated gum (3 mg / kg) improved performance when taken immediately before the cycle, but it did not have a performance-enhancing effect when taken 1 or 2 hours earlier. Approximately 85% of the dose is released and absorbed within the first 5 minutes of chewing. This faster application to target tissues may result in a faster onset of ergogenic effects  (Anderson, 2017).

Player's jerseys hung in front of lockers

Adverse effects of caffeine consumption

It has been found that a dose of 3-9 mg / kg of caffeine is effective for improving sports performance. Doses above this level do not improve performance further and may cause side effects such as anxiety, restlessness, headaches that may impair performance (Anderson, 2017). A high intake of caffeine can also cause negative symptoms such as heart palpitations, insomnia, and tachycardia (Esposito, Teta, & Teta, 2020).


As a result, caffeine is ergogenic when consumed at a dose of 3-6 mg/kg/day. The most common time when caffeine supplementation is used is 60 minutes before exercise. It has been stated that the timing of caffeine consumption before the match varies between 15-90 minutes and is the most frequently used timing strategy 30-45 minutes before kick-off. Doses above 9 mg/kg daily caffeine intake do not further improve performance in sports and may cause side effects.

In studies, it has been stated that acute caffeine intake with moderate doses of caffeine before exercise has the capacity to develop various football-related abilities and skills such as vertical jump height, repeated sprinting ability, running distances during the game and passing the ball.

Soccer player in orange and blue

The demand for sport nutrition experts, performance & coaching specialists in football & team sports is growing year upon year. Thousands of students are leaving university with a sport science degree, however many of them asking the key question – What now? What’s the next step? Which area of sport or football science do I want to specialise in?

This is certainly an interesting question as progressing from completing a sport science or nutrition related degree to then working in professional football & trying to understanding all the key components, and soft skills that come with jobs in football or careers within sport.

The bespoke courses developed by ISSPF Elite Faculty members are a way of further exposing sport science & nutritional related students, individuals working within the game & other football science enthusiasts with a thirst to develop further in this specific nutrition & performance area.

The link below will take you to the hugely popular & expertly designed ISSPF endorsed & accredited Soccer & Sports Nutrition online sport science course, where you will be exposed to football science & specific sports nutrition coaching led research, practical examples used by leading practitioners.

Why is this course important?

  • Understanding the key energy sources required to perform repeated high intensity & explosive movements within the intermittent nature of soccer is of paramount importance
  • Fueling to perform & recover from both training, competitive games is very specific across a range of levels of the game
  • All practitioners and coaches can only benefit themselves and their players even further by having a more in-depth knowledge of sports nutrition
  • May help us to reduce the risk for non-contact muscle injuries, through a better understanding of key timing of nutrients

Who is this course for?

  • Individuals tasked with the responsibility for the training & coaching aspects of both individual athletes or team sports
  • Individuals with an interest in developing their knowledge in the nutritional preparation, training & development of individual athletes or team sports.

What Does This Course Cover?

Outline of the accredited Foundation Sports Nutrition online course:

Module 1: Energy balance & body composition: basics of soccer physiology
Lecturer: Sam McHaffie (Science In Sport [SIS]) England
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 2: Understanding Macro & Micro-nutrients
Lecturer: Dr. Eirini Manthou (Olympiakos) Greece
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 3: Soccer health & wellness (vitamins, minerals)
Lecturer: Matthew Jones (West Ham United, Chelsea WFC) England
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 4: Fluid balance & soccer specific hydration 
Lecturer: Virginia Santesteban (Real Sociedad CF) Spain
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 5: Training, Match & Recovery Fueling – Soccer Nutrition to Perform
Lecturer: Dr. Adam Owen (UEFA PRO Licence) Wales
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 6: Maximising nutrition through injury
Lecturer: Faisal Alshawa (Aspire, Qatar) Kuwait
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 7: The role of nutrition for the female soccer player
Lecturer: Dr. Yasemin Batmaca (Besiktas) Turkey
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

Module 8: An introduction to nutritional supplementation and ergogenic aids
Lecturer: Matthew Jones (West Ham United, Chelsea FC) England
Topic: Sport Nutrition & Environmental

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