High-dose caffeine boosts jump performance, study finds

A recent study on young male basketball players found a high dose of caffeine helped the athletes jump and sprint better after six weeks of supplementation and specific training exercises.

Hank Schultz, Senior Editor

July 8, 2024

4 Min Read

At a Glance

  • Caffeine has long history in sports nutrition. 
  • Some recent studies have had many moving parts, muddying the results. 
  • This study stuck to basics and found a benefit for basketball players. 

A high caffeine dose improves jumping and sprinting performance among basketball players, a new study suggests. 

The new research was published in the journal Scientific Reports. It was the work of researchers associated with Wuhan Sports University in Hubei, China. 

History of caffeine research 

Using caffeine to boost sports performance is an idea as old as the field of sports nutrition itself. In a position paper on the effects of caffeine, the International Society of Sports Nutrition noted that “Caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive substance.” 

The paper went on to say that “caffeine has become ubiquitous in the sporting world, where there is keen interest in better understanding the impact of caffeine on various types of exercise performance. Accordingly, caffeine has dominated the ergogenic aids and sport supplement research domain over the past several decades.” 

The ISSN document noted that the first studies on the effects of caffeine in what would later be dubbed “sports nutrition” came in 1906 and 1907.  

Now, more than a hundred years later, researchers like the Chinese team in Hubei are adding to that body of knowledge. 

Caffeine often combined with other interventions 

Recent sports-specific studies using caffeine have returned mixed results. The ingredient often seems to be paired with other interventions, perhaps because its effects are well known and therefore can, in theory, be accounted for in a multi-factorial study design. 

For example, a recent study combined an adaptive muscle training technique called ischemic preconditioning (IPC) with caffeine. IPC involves purposely restricting blood flow to working muscles to induce training adaptations. That study found no improvement in cycling spring times. 

Another study of young female taekwondo athletes combined “warm up” music with caffeine before a simulated sparring session. The study found some benefits, but whether the caffeine or the music therapy was responsible was unclear. And it had a complicated design, with many subtle, potentially subjective measurements, such as how quickly an athlete initiated an attack. 

Chinese study sticks to basics 

The most recent Chinese study had a laudably pared-down design by comparison. The goal was to examine a low and high dose of caffeine against placebo using a study population of collegiate basketball players. 

The caffeine doses ranged from a low of 3 milligrams per kilogram of body weight up to 6 mg/kg (or between 245-490 mg for a 180-lb basketball player). A regular cup of coffee is considered to contain 100 mg caffeine. A third group (all groups consisted of 8 subjects) took an identical placebo. All of the interventions were delivered in capsule form and the subjects were instructed to take them with juice. 

The subjects were instructed to maintain their standard diets and all continued in their basketball training when not involved in laboratory training sessions. 

The researchers measured the athletes’ performance on a series of well documented plyometric training routines. This style of training includes high tension muscle contractions such as might be induced by doing squats with a heavy weight with rapid movement. Box jumps and repeated sprints are typical exercises. 

The subjects took the 3 mg/kg, 6 mg/kg or placebo interventions for eight weeks.  At baseline their jumping and 20-meter sprint performance were recorded, as well as a Wingate anaerobic threshold test. 

After that, the three groups went for six weeks with three plyometric jump training (PJT) sessions per week. 

At the conclusion of the study in the 8th week the subjects repeated the baseline athletic performance tests. 

High-dose group improved the most 

All of the groups improved their vertical jump performance and sprint times after the 6 weeks of PJT. However, the highest-dose caffeine group improved the most, and the improvements measured in this group were more uniform than those in the other two groups. 

“Based on these findings, it is advisable for basketball coaches, trainers and athletes to consider incorporating caffeine (at a dosage of 6 mg/kg of BM) as an ergogenic aid to induce greater adaptive responses and uniform adaptations in the variables related to basketball performance,” the researchers wrote.  


About the Author(s)

Hank Schultz

Senior Editor, Informa

Hank Schultz has been the senior editor of Natural Products Insider since early 2023. He can be reached at [email protected]

Prior to joining the Informa team, he was an editor at NutraIngredients-USA, a William Reed Business Media publication.

His approach to industry journalism was formed via a long career in the daily newspaper field. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and German, Hank was an editor at the Tempe Daily News in Arizona. He followed that with a long stint working at the Rocky Mountain News, a now defunct daily newspaper in Denver, where he rose to be one of the city editors. The newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes during his time there.

The changing landscape of the newspaper industry led him to explore other career paths. He began his career in the natural products industry more than a decade ago at New Hope Natural Media, which was then part of Penton and now is an Informa brand. Hank formed friendships and partnerships within the industry that still inform his work to this day, which helps him to bring an insider’s perspective, tempered with an objective journalist’s sensibility, to his in-depth reporting.

Harkening back to his newspaper days, Hank considers the readers to be the primary stakeholders whose needs must be met. Report the news quickly, comprehensively and above all, fairly, and readership and sponsorships will follow.

In 2015, Hank was recognized by the American Herbal Products Association with a Special Award for Journalistic Excellence.

When he’s not reporting on the supplement industry, Hank enjoys many outside pursuits. Those include long distance bicycle touring, mountain climbing, sailing, kayaking and fishing. Less strenuous pastimes include travel, reading (novels and nonfiction), studying German, noodling on a harmonica, sketching and a daily dose of word puzzles in The New York Times.

Last but far from least, Hank is a lifelong fan and part owner of the Green Bay Packers.

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