Cycling and coffee: Does caffeine really boost riding performance?

How does caffeine work? Why isn’t caffeine a banned substance? Can you consume too much coffee? We take you through everything a cyclist needs to know about coffee (except for tips on how to brew it!)

Image shows rider taking caffeine in coffee and gels on a bike ride.
(Image credit: Future)

We’re a nation of coffee lovers – slurping down a staggering 90 million cups every day. Cyclists might very well be bumping up that average, given our renowned love of coffee – the cherished mid-ride cafe stop is a rite of passage. It would be useful to know, therefore, what effects our coffee intake might be having on our health and performance. Is that coffee stop helping our cycling, and if so, how?  

There's a wide array of available sports supplements for cyclists – powders, pills and potions - and as with any nutritional message reported by the media, the hype around coffee is pretty confusing and conflicting – some articles hail it as a magical superfood, while others suggest it might be an addiction we need to kick. Here, we’ll look at what the best evidence shows us, so you can make an informed decision about how much coffee to drink – and perhaps even use it to your advantage.

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Food or drinkPortion sizeTypical caffeine content (mg)
Coffee, brewed from grounds*240ml (1 cup)96
Coffee, instant*Dry weight 0.9g (1 tsp)28
Coffee, espresso*Dry weight 0.9g (1 tsp)127
Breakfast tea, brewed five minutes***170ml (6oz)25
Breakfast tea, brewed three minutes***170ml (6oz)22
Green tea, brewed three minutes***170ml (6oz)27-46
Dark chocolate, 70-85% cocoa solids*28 (1oz)23
Coca Cola, original**330ml (1 can)32
Coca Cola, diet**330ml (1 can)42
Red Bull, regular**250ml (1 can)80
Lucozade, original**380ml (1 bottle)46
Pro Plus**1 tablet50
Healthspan Elite Caffeine Gum**1 gum100

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