Marathon Swims and Caffeine

jcmalickjcmalick Wilmington, DEMember
edited February 2013 in General Discussion
@evmo, not sure what the tabulations for the SBCSA have shown so far, but what has been the general consensus been on caffeine? I would think a marathon swim should be dictated by what the "Father's of Open Water Swimming" had at their disposal to keep the playing fields fair and true (not sure I agree with Men's suits becoming smaller when Captain Webb had a full suit!) but surely the likes of Ederle, Webb, Huddlestone, Young, etc had access to caffeine and certainly they must have resorted to it on long swims or when a coffee headache set in (for us addicts). This is spurred on by a recent developement that the 5 Hour Energy Guy just smashed the double English Channel record in a sub 5 hour time:

Curious to see what other swimmers take on caffeine is as when I attempted the Farallones last year with colder water temps (52-48), I looked forward to my warm feeds of chai tea! (obviously some swimmers were known to have alcohol too but that's a different thread and the world over views it differently as South Africa's take vs the United States are much different but perhaps that can be a separate discussion one day!)


  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    OK @jcmalick, I took a quick peek at the data (because I like you).

    Of 127 respondents (so far), 91% said caffeine should be allowed. A consensus, it would seem.

    If anyone reading this has not taken the Marathon Swimming Rules Survey yet, you have only five days left to do so!
  • oxooxo Guest
    edited February 2013
    EDIT: Fathers --> Pioneers

    Regarding Pioneers of Open Water Swimming ....
    " Mixtures of strychnine, heroin, cocaine, and caffeine were used widely by athletes and each coach or team developed its own unique secret formulae. This was common practice until heroin and cocaine became available only by prescription in the 1920s."

    Mark S. Gold, MD Performance-Enhancing Medications and Drugs of Abuse, 1992

    or more broadly ...

  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    Without wanting to be too pedantic.... could we call them the 'pioneers' of the sport rather than its 'fathers' - quite a few of them were women.
  • Yeah if them ladies and gentlemen were taking cocaine and heroin what's the harm in some caffeine?
  • jcmalickjcmalick Wilmington, DEMember
    edited February 2013
    Perhaps I should have said fathers and mothers! But yes, pioneers is much more politically correct and a term I love today as it "paves the way" for creativity and originality and to lead by example.

    In regards to caffeine and narcotics, here's a study done by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) that substantiates the use of caffeine in sports and specifically in endurance sports such as marathon swimming:

    Some of the excerpts of specific interest would be:
    Laboratory studies from the 1970’s suggested that caffeine enhanced endurance performance by increasing the release of adrenaline into the blood stimulating the release of free fatty acids from fat tissue and/or skeletal muscle. The working muscles use this extra fat early in exercise, reducing the need to use muscle carbohydrate (glycogen). The “sparing” of muscle glycogen made more available later in exercise to delay fatigue.

    In the 1980’s, many studies found that caffeine did not alter exercise metabolism, and implied that it had no ergogenic effect, without actually measuring performance. A few reports did examine caffeine and performance during endurance exercise and generally found no ergogenic effect. By the end of the decade, it was suggested that caffeine did not alter metabolism during endurance exercise and may not be ergogenic.

    Recent work reported that ingestion of 3-9 mg of caffeine per kilogram (kg) of body weight one hour prior to exercise increased endurance running and cycling performance in the laboratory. To put this into perspective, 3 mg per kg body weight equals approximately one mug or 2 regular size cups of drip-percolated coffee; and 9 mg/kg = approximately 3 mugs of 5-6 regular size cups of coffee. These studies employed well-trained, elite or serious, recreational athletes. Studies with untrained individuals cannot be performed due to their inability to reliably exercise to exhaustion.

    The mechanism to explain these endurance improvements is unclear. Muscle glycogen is spared early during submaximal exercise following caffeine ingestion (5-9 mg/kg). It is unknown whether glycogen sparing occurs as a result of caffeine’s ability to increase fat availability for skeletal muscle use. Furthermore, there is no evidence supporting a metabolic component for enhancing performance at a low caffeine dose (3 mg/kg). Therefore, it appears that alterations in muscle metabolism alone cannot fully explain the ergogenic effect of caffeine during endurance exercise.

    Additionally, the "gold standard" by many would the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and here's their say:
    Caffeine is a “controlled or restricted substance” as defined by the
    International Olympic Committee (IOC). Athletes are allowed up to 12 ug caffeine per
    milliliter of urine before it is considered illegal. The acceptable limit in sports sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the U.S. is 15 ug/ml urine. These high urinary limits are to allow athletes to consume normal amounts of caffeine prior to competition. A large amount of caffeine can be ingested before reaching the “illegal” limit. For example, if a 70 kg person rapidly drank about 3-4 mugs, or 5-6 regular size cups of drip-percolated coffee (~9 mg/kg bw) one hour before exercise, exercised for 1-1.5 hours and then gave a urine sample, the urinary caffeine level would only approach the limit (12 ug/ml). The odds of reaching the limit through normal caffeine ingestion are low, except where smaller volumes of coffee with very high caffeine concentrations are consumed. Therefore, an illegal urinary caffeine level makes it highly probable that the athlete deliberately took supplementary caffeine tablets or suppositories in an attempt to improve performance.

    Obviously I'm an advocate for caffeine and know that I cannot be sited for DUI or SUI (Swimming Under the Influence) for having a few Starbucks before or during a long stint in the sea.
  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    In the US AirForce they used to test your fitness with a bike test. Your HR was tracked over a measured resistance and time. This was done to approximate VO2 max without needing the expensive equipment or PhDs.
    The service warned that if you normally drink caffeine in the morning, do NOT not drink it the morning of your test as that'll skew your results. (Some folks would try to get their starting HR low by not drinking the coffee,)
    My point is if your body is used to you having, say, 2 bottles of pop before 9 am, NOT drinking those bottles will have an adverse effect on your body (caffeine headache anyone?). That's the last thing you need while trying to swim a marathon+!!!

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • jcmalickjcmalick Wilmington, DEMember
    edited February 2013
    @Niek they're the franchised locations. I came across several in the Caribbean Sea at the locations off of Cancun (MX), Puerto Viejo(CR), and Humacao(PR). I've come across them in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans as them, SOS (Starbucks of the Sea). The CEO is Poseidon and I heard large waves can be spurred if he doesn't get his morning fix!

    Case in point in Viking Time:

  • jcmalickjcmalick Wilmington, DEMember
    ALSO, more "drink for thought" Starbucks Siren is a two-tailed mermaid. Coincidence? You decide!

  • oxooxo Guest
    edited February 2013
    WADA's Questions and Answers on 2012 Prohibited List:
    What is the status of caffeine?
    The status of caffeine has not changed from last year. Caffeine was removed from the Prohibited List in 2004. Its use in sport is not prohibited.

    Many experts believe that caffeine is ubiquitous in beverages and food and that reducing the threshold might therefore create the risk of sanctioning athletes for social or diet consumption of caffeine. In addition, caffeine is metabolized at very different rates in individuals.

    Caffeine is part of WADA's Monitoring Program. This program includes substances which are not prohibited in sport, but which WADA monitors in order to detect patterns of misuse in sport.

    The 2010 and 2011 Monitoring Programs did not reveal global specific patterns of misuse of caffeine in sport, though a significant increase in consumption in the athletic population is observed.
  • jcmalickjcmalick Wilmington, DEMember
    That would require one heck of a feed stick! Can Steve make one that long?!?! Perhaps this would be the perfect escort for a TransAtlantic Crossing!
  • jcmalickjcmalick Wilmington, DEMember
    I Just Hope that's not a Carnival!
  • jcmalickjcmalick Wilmington, DEMember
    @Niek I had to revisit this thread from over a year ago! Just noticed the loading door and 7 meter feed stick now! LOL :-))
  • jcmalickjcmalick Wilmington, DEMember
    Was that the same message to Trent? I think you have to be a fast swimmer (say 2.5 mph or faster) for that to be relavent!
  • jcmalickjcmalick Wilmington, DEMember
    I'm Sold! 8-}
  • lakespraylakespray Senior Member
    " Mixtures of strychnine, heroin, cocaine, and caffeine were used widely by athletes and each coach or team developed its own unique secret formulae. This was common practice until heroin and cocaine became available only by prescription in the 1920s."

    Mark S. Gold, MD Performance-Enhancing Medications and Drugs of Abuse, 1992
    So I'm from Colorado and I'm wondering if maybe we should create the Colorado Exception in the rules, under the when in Rome philosophy ;)
  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited August 2016

    Here's a fascinating, presented-yet-unpublished finding on genetics, caffeine, and performance on a 10k cycling time trial

    "[...] the 49 fast metabolizers in the group sped up by an average of 1.2 minutes on caffeine. The 43 slow metabolizers with the GA genotype sped up by a statistically insignificant 0.5 minutes; and the eight slowest metabolizers with AA genotype actually slowed down by 2.5 minutes after taking caffeine."

    Will caffeine make you a better athlete? That depends on your DNA.

    So, statistically, only about half of the study population were fast metabolizers and benefited from caffeine. I wonder if marathon swimmers are more or less likely, as a population, to metabolize caffeine slowly...

    Also note the finding on increased heart attack risk:

    "Slow metabolizers, in contrast, had a 36-per-cent higher risk of heart attack if they drank two to three cups of coffee a day, and 64-per-cent higher for four or more cups a day. Since the caffeine lingered in their bodies, its negative effects outweighed any polyphenol and antioxidant benefits."

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