NCAA limits caffeine intake

April 21, 2022

UVM varsity student-athletes must monitor their caffeine intake due to NCAA regulations limiting consumption of caffeine before competitions, according to the NCAA’s list of banned and restricted substances.

The NCAA classifies caffeine as a banned substance, according to the NCAA’s regulations. A urinary caffeine concentration greater than 15 micrograms per milliliter constitutes a positive drug test, which results in a one-year suspension from competition, according to the NCAA’s drug testing manual.

A person needs to ingest about 500 milligrams of caffeine two to three hours before a competition to reach the limit, according to a 2018 NCAA study. An eight-ounce cup of drip coffee contains an average of 145 milligrams of caffeine, according to Caffeine Informer, a database tracking caffeine content in beverages and supplements. The Food and Drug Administration discourages consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, according to their website.

An athlete would have to consume three to six caffeinated beverages before competition to return a positive drug test, according to the NCAA limits.

The NCAA regulates caffeine because athletes can use caffeine to increase endurance and reduce fatigue, according to Global Sport Matters.

Low levels of caffeine consumption can improve an athlete’s performance in cardiovascular exercise and endurance training, according to an NCAA Sport Science Institute study. However, the study states caffeine can be dangerous when consumed in high amounts. 

“Caffeine consumed at very high levels – six to nine milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight – can cause gastrointestinal issues, nausea or shaking, as well as overstimulation that can negatively impact training, sleep and performance,” according to a 2018 NCAA Sport Science Institute study.

The NCAA is not the only sports organization that has restricted caffeine consumption. In 1984, caffeine consumption over 12 micrograms/milliliter was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which creates substance use regulations for sports organizations worldwide, according to the National Library of Medicine.

WADA regulated caffeine because of its perceived performance-enhancing effects. But in 2004,  WADA ended its ban after determining caffeine in very large amounts was detrimental to athlete performance, not an advantage.

WADA also reversed its ban to prevent athletes drinking coffee or soda from testing positive, according to the Washington Post. WADA still monitors caffeine levels in athletes but does not consider it a prohibited substance, according to WADA’s prohibited substances list.

The caffeine limits are so high that UVM athletes are not at risk of exceeding them, Nich Hall, director of athletic communications and broadcasting, stated in an April 11 email.

“It’s not really something that [affects] our student athlete’s day-to-day life,” Hall stated.

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