• Coming Back From Injury
  • Get Trip-Fit Fast
  • Systems Wall and Symmetrical Training
  • Coaching Climbing - How To Train Juniors with Care and Caution
  • Grip Trainers - Gimmicks, or Worth the Money?
  • Hangboarding for Endurance: Not Just for Power
  • Simulation Training: How to Do a Move You Can't Do
  • Planning a Year's Climbing
  • Portable Training Rigs - How to Stay Fit on the Go
  • How to Keep Your Job and Family and Still Climb at Your Limit
  • Suspension Training for Rock Climbing
  • Eat Fat, Climb Harder - The Ketogenic Diet
  • Witness the Mental Fitness: Set Thought Aside to Improve Performance
  • Mental Training Made Simple
  • Counterintuitive Climbing Tips to Change Your Game - Part 2
  • Endurance Training Tips for Winter
  • Five Counterintuitive Climbing Tips to Change Your Game - Part 1
  • Staying Power - How to Last All Day at the Crag
  • Attack and Defend - Tips for Effective Resting
  • Change Up - Plug the Gaps In Your Strength Training This Winter
  • Training While Injured
  • The Hard Way, Easier: How to Cope with Redpoint Nerves
  • Climbing Literacy - Get Better Instantly by Reading Routes
  • The Numbers Game - How to Use Your Age to Your Advantage
  • Injury-Free Bouldering: 15 Tips to Keep You Healthy and Strong
  • Injury-Free Boarding: 14 Training Tips to Save Your Fingers
  • The Truth About Caffeine and Climbing
  • Pushing Past Your Training Plateau
  • Five Strategies to Sharpen Concentration and Climb Better
  • Five Ways to Get Better Without Training
  • Beat the Burnout: Only Ondra Should Train Like Ondra
  • Effective Gym Training Strategies (for Route Climbing)
  • Should You Add Weight or Use Smaller Holds on a Hangboard?
  • Map Out a Plan with the Radar System
  • Managing the Fear of Falling
  • Projecting 101 – 6 Tips For Sending
  • Slowing the Pump Clock - Three Strategies to Prevent the Pump
  • Training on the Go
  • How to Train for Compression
  • Nutrition: Eating Your Way to Better Climbing
  • How to Dyno
  • General Conditioning for Climbers
  • Transitioning from Gym to Crag
  • Staying Strong to Perform Your Best All Season
  • How to Lose Weight for Climbing
  • Building a Better Climber: Final Phase - Peaking
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 7 - Power Endurance Training
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 6 - Endurance II
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 5 - Strength and Power II
  • The Training Effect - Steve House and Scott Johnston
  • Training for Climbing: Injured? Train Your Core!
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 4 - Power Endurance
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 3 - Strength Training
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 2 - Low-Intensity Endurance
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 1 - Conditioning Phase
  • Gain Confidence by Learning Not to Fear Falling
  • Get Better When You Are Scared and Pumped
  • Never Get Pumped Again
  • Gutbusters - Core Exercises for Rock Climbing
  • Rest ... or Else
  • The Intuitive Approach to Training
  • Free Climbing Tips: Why Get Stronger When You Can Get Better?
  • Crank Like a Russian - How to Power Train for Climbing
  • How to Mentally Train
  • Boost Power With Eccentric Training
  • Tips for Better Onsighting
  • Should You Lose Weight or Get Stronger?
  • Is Protein Important?
  • Getting Strong After a Layoff
  • Does Running or Biking Improve Your Climbing?
  • Training While Hungry
  • How To Use Microcycles
  • How to Improve Slab Technique
  • How to Unlock a Crux
  • How to Use a Hangboard
  • Using a Weight Belt For Training
  • Training During Pregnancy
  • Maximizing a Small Home Wall
  • How to Stay Psyched
  • How to Prevent Bonking
  • Best Ratio of Resting to Bouldering
  • The Importance of Finger Strength
  • Regaining Confidence After a Fall
  • Overcome Anxiety and Send!
  • Maximum Training in Minimum Time
  • Dynamic vs. Static Stretching
  • Do Forearm Trainers Work?
  • Ultimate Strength
  • The Secrets of Warming Up
  • Periodized Training For the Year-round Approach
  • Resting the Perfect Amount
  • How To Recover On Route
  • Does Creatine Work?
  • Recovery Supplement Truths
  • Euro Training Secrets
  • Can Old Guys Get Stronger?
  • Training With an Injury
  • How to Beat Fear
  • How Often Should You Rest?
  • Warming Up Without Warm-Ups
  • How to Develop Sloper Strength
  • Beating the Lactic Acid Pump
  • Video Spotlight
    FREE - Big Wall Climbing in Yosemite with Jorg Verhoeven and Katha Saurwein
    FREE - Big Wall Climbing in Yosemite with Jorg Verhoeven and Katha Saurwein
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer

    The Truth About Caffeine and Climbing

    By Eric Hörst

    This article was previously published on Training4Climbing.com.

    Andy Weber shares his pre-climbing yerba mate at Las Chilcas crag in central Chile. You’ll be hard pressed to find a Chilean climber without this caffeinated beverage. Photo: Guillermo Sapaj.If you are a coffee aficionado like me, then this article is for you! Your addiction—er, culinary ritual—may actually give you an extra edge both in training and climbing.

    Caffeine (the active ingredient in coffee) is the number one ergogenic aid of the common man and athletes alike. It’s caffeine’s well-documented effects on the central nervous system that help you wake up in the morning, gather your focus at school or work, and become a bit more productive at the gym. Remarkably, caffeine has also been shown to have numerous positive impacts on health—most notable are its protective effect when it comes to neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s) and cancer (bladder, pancreatic, breast, ovarian, colon and colorectal).

    If you consume a daily coffee, espresso, tea, or another caffeine-laced drink like Red Bull or yerba mate, then you know first-hand the stimulant effects of caffeine. But there are several other ways that caffeine might help you train and climb harder, as well as a few undesirable side effects that you need to be aware of. Let’s sort things out.

    Here are the most notable performance-enhancing effects of caffeine, as summarized in an excellent meta-analysis research paper by Bülent Sökmem, et la (2008).

    • Improve concentration, alertness, and mood, especially in sleep-deprived athletes.
    • Enhanced reaction time and improve accuracy in skilled movements.
    • Lowered peripheral pain perception and rating of perceived exertion.
    • Increased work output and time to exhaustion during predominantly aerobic-powered endurance exercise (e.g. endurance routes and multi-pitch climbs).
    • Increased power output and isokinetic strength in maximum strength and power events lasting less than 10 seconds (e.g. a short, maximal boulder problem, campus training, one-arm pull-up).

      Considering these cognitive and physiological effects, it’s not surprising that so many climbers consume caffeine, not only in the morning, but also upon arriving at the gym or crag. Still, you must be careful not to develop a more-is-better mindset when it comes to quaffing your favorite caffeinated drink—there are some potential negative impacts to consider.

    • High doses can make you jittery and nervous—not ideal for a delicate face climb (requiring fine motor control) or before competition.
    • High doses may impart a generalized ill-feeling due to gastrointestinal distress, headache, and perhaps even heart palpitations.
    • Given caffeine’s half-life of 4 to 6 hours, consumption in the afternoon or evening may lead to insomnia or a restless night’s sleep (thus, negatively impacting your recovery and next-day performance).
    • High doses of caffeine have been shown to lower blood pH (more acidic) and therefore it may negatively impact high-intensity exercise performance relying on the glycolytic energy system (e.g. a long boulder problem or short, pumpy sport route).

    The author, at home, enjoying a pre-workout Café! Photo courtesy of Eric Hörst.So how much caffeine should you consume to gain a performance edge? Ultimately that depends on your tolerance to this drug, which is a function of the amount you habitually consume each day. Across the research literature, subjects consumed between 3 and 13mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight, however low to moderate dosing of 3 to 9 mg per kg seems optimal (most upsides with least negative side-effects). 

    For the average-sized climber, this equates to consuming somewhere between 200mg and 600mg of caffeine—use the low end of this range if you are caffeine “naïve” and upper-range dosing if you are a regular, heavy consumer. See Table (above) for approximate caffeine content in common beverages.

    The Bottom Line 

    Caffeine use can potentially enhance your training and climbing performance, but caffeine “over dose” will likely hurt your performance. The key is to experiment with and understand caffeine’s unique effects on you. Ideally, you’ll learn to manipulate your caffeine dosage to get the best performance-enhancing effect via moderate dosing—that is, decrease daily dosing in the days leading up to critical climb or competition, then return to your “normal” moderate dose on the day of the event. This is a superior approach to simply doubling your caffeine dose on the performance day, thus risking the negative side effects listed above.


    Related Articles
    How to Prevent Bonking
    Training While Hungry
    Nutrition: Eating Your Way to Better Climbing


      About the Author:

    An accomplished climber of more than 38 years, Eric is an internationally renowned author, researcher, and climbing coach. Eric is the world’s most widely published climbing coach with six books (and many foreign translations) selling more than 300,000 copies, including his best-selling tome Training for Climbing, and hundreds of magazine and Web articles published. A self-professed “climber for life”, Eric remains active at the cliffs and as a researcher, author, and coach. His website is: Training4Climbing.com

    Reader's Commentary:

    Don't want to use Facebook, but still want to comment? We have you covered:

    Add Your Comments to this article: