I don’t talk much about my training on this blog probably because it is usually fairly routine. But today I want to talk about my experiences with caffeine. Until recently it is not something I worried too much about. I was vaguely aware that the energy gels I was using did not contain caffeine but I didn’t calculate or plan a specific caffeine intake. I would often have an energy drink or coffee the morning of a race but not because I felt I need it but everyone else was. A few weeks ago, for reasons relating to my training and racing nutrition, I cut out coffee completely.
Although I haven’t had a chance to test this is a race yet I am amazed at the difference every day. As background, I started drinking coffee occasionally when I was at university. I definitely didn’t have it every day, probably once a week. When I started an office job 5 years ago (omg has it been that long!) I drank more coffee; every day (except the weekends). During this time I trained for and completed three Ironman triathlons with relatively few nutritional problems. As I previously noted, at the time I was using an energy gel that did not contain caffeine. Since L has moved in with his espresso machine we have coffee, without fail, every morning. And then after training he will have another coffee with breakfast. More recently he has also changed brands of energy gels to ones which do contain caffeine.
Which brings me to the problem: in all of my races so far this season I have had stomach problems that have limited my ability to run. I have also had issues in training on my long runs. I get stiches, feel sick, can’t stomach anything so run out of energy, etc. So a few weeks ago, riding with a friend who happens to be an elite triathlete I mentioned these issues and she asked about caffeine in my energy gels. I wasn’t really convinced that it was the problem but was willing to try anything that might help so decided to switch gels and see what happened. While I was at it I also decided to cut out coffee as I have had trouble running at lunchtime (GI issues) for a few years and running in the afternoon is completely not on GIT-wise! If I thought caffeine was a problem maybe it would help with that also.
The results so far: amazing! My tummy feels so much happier. Until I cut out coffee I didn’t realise how bad it was making me feel. I don’t know if it will help me in races but the change has been well worth it purely from a wellbeing point of view. Although there are some mornings (like today when it is cold and raining) when the thought of a hot coffee is very appealing I do also really enjoy tea so I have treated myself to some nice teas to try and fill the gap (another post on that later).