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Energy Drinks, Coffee & Football Performance | Under- or Overrated?

energy drinks, coffee, and football performance

I’m sure that the thought of consuming energy drinks, a coffee, or any other caffeinated beverage on game-day has crossed your mind at least once as a football player who wants to increase his performance.

I mean this is normal if you take into consideration all the marketing that happens around those drinks, the pro players, such as Jamie Vardy who swear by them, as well as your teammate who is chugging down a can of a popular energy drink before every game.

READ THIS: Top 10+1 Drinks For Football Players | Performance & Recovery

Are these drinks any good though? Is their strategic consumption enhancing your performance? Are these overrated or underrated?

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Are Energy Drinks & Coffee Overrated or Underrated For Football Performance?

I personally believe that energy drinks, coffee, and all sorts of caffeinated beverages are massively overrated in the sports and football performance industry if you compare them to a finely tuned preparation strategy that any player can use.

I totally get why players consume energy drinks or coffee before a game or training and I’m fully aware of all the ergogenic effects caffeine consumption can have on physical and mental performance.

RELATED: Supplements For Football Performance & Recovery | All You Need To Know

The Real Issue With Energy Drinks & Coffee…

However, it really hurts me to see footballers trying to cover up their bad sleep, nutrition, training, and life habits just before a game due to the false perception that a black coffee or an energy drink can give them that boost they didn’t get from their preparation.

RELATED: Quality Sleep For Performance – This Is How To Achieve It

Don’t take me wrong though, I think that if you’re a healthy adult with no health issues that might get influenced by any of the ingredients inside an energy drink or coffee, you may consider a caffeine supplementation strategy 30 minutes to an hour before kick-off that is under 400mg, and preferably around that 150-200mg range, which is widely suggested amongst the literature on sports performance and caffeine. 

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The real problem I’m seeing is athletes, especially young ones, getting easily influenced by pro players and energy drink brands and getting trapped into the mindset that caffeine and energy drinks are a cure for all of their performance-related issues.

So no, not drinking coffee or energy drinks isn’t the reason you’re underperforming in games and feeling sluggish.

This leads many players down the wrong pathways, completely neglecting the fundamental pillars of preparation and health such as sleep, nutrition, recovery, and proper training, and life habits.

In fact, excess caffeine consumption can even lead to caffeine overdose, which can be detrimental to their performance and their overall health, both in the micro and the macro.

READ THIS: Match-Day Nutrition For Football Players | Everything You Need To Know

Main Takeaway

The main takeaway I want you to get from this article is that even a well-structured coffee or energy drinks strategy is only secondary to proper sleep, nutrition, and training and cannot reproduce the positive effects these have on your football performance if you totally neglect them.

Practical Example

Think of it like this.

We have three players.

One player is totally neglecting the basic pillars of preparation and just consumes 150-200mg of caffeine before games. The second player is taking care of his preparation leading up to a game, and the third one is doing both. 

Who is going to get the most bang for their buck?

example of caffeine supplementation, preparation strategies, and football performance

I’m sure you’ll guess that right! Either player 2 or 3 depending on how their system deals with caffeine.

You see, even if player one feels energetic and alert because of the stimulating effects of caffeine, it doesn’t mean that he is maximizing his performance potential for the sole reason that he is not aware of how the alternative options he had would impact his performance.

His perception of “peak performance” is at a much lower standard. At least if you compare it to the other 2 players who are always taking care of their preparation leading up to a game and don’t solely rely on caffeine boosts.

So stop arguing that “your body functions that way” and always ask yourself about the alternative options you have.

Just because you can get away with bad eating, sleep, training, or life habits doesn’t mean you have reached your fullest potential.

You’ve got more to give.

Stop BSing yourself and start taking care of how you prepare for a game.

Now, let’s go over some facts in terms of your game-day prep.

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Basic Game-Day Prep Principles

SLEEP

Let’s start with the most effective tool for performance enhancements, health, and overall well-being; sleep.

Eight to nine hours of quality sleeping time, are absolutely essential and directly linked to increased awareness, focus, and physical performance.

Aim for an uninterrupted sleeping pattern that will help you get into those deep sleeping stages much more frequently and for longer time periods.

Also, avoid sleeping in for more than 10 hours. This might get you some counterproductive results, making you feel lethargic for the rest of the day.

Lastly, your circadian rhythm plays a vital role in sleeping quality. Keep your sleep wake-up times almost identical each day to maximize the quality potential.

RELATED: Quality Sleep For Performance – This Is How To Achieve It

NUTRITION

You shall also consider some nutritional strategies and principles that will boost your performance.

Following a well-balanced diet that includes all of the macro- and micronutrients at their suggested intakes can be key to recovering effectively after training or games as well as lasting longer on the pitch.

A really effective nutritional strategy you won’t regret using is called carb-loading.

Think of your body as a car and glycogen as fuel.

As you may know, glycogen, which is the bi-product of carbohydrate breakdown, is a footballer’s primary source of energy.

Carb-loading basically is a progressive increase of your carbohydrate intake the closer you get to kick-off. This is done to load and fill up the glycogen stores of your skeletal muscle and liver. 

RELATED: Carb-Loading For Football | Everything You Need To Know

We couldn’t forget to mention the importance of having a half-time nutritional strategy. Taking advantage of those 15 minutes is key to maximizing your performance in the second half. Take that time to replenish lost nutrients and fluids.

RELATED: The Half-Time: A Strategic Approach For Footballers

nutrition and preparation for peak football performance

TRAINING

As far as training is concerned, you should make sure you’re doing everything in your control to achieve peak performance on game-day.

The closer you get to kick-off the more you need to taper off and peak your training intensity for match-day.

I want you to keep these points in mind. The closer you are to game-day the less the training volume and the higher the intensity of your actions need to become.

In other words, we wanna keep your sessions short and sharp.

This will allow you to peak for your game and make sure that your body is loaded up with energy and your whole neuromuscular system is firing like a gun!

At the same time, you also want to adopt a principle-based approach to training and use tools such as progressive overload to avoid overtraining and decreased game performance.

training and preparation for peak football performance

RECOVERY

Another thing that will help you prime your body for the game is recovery. Please, do not neglect the basic pillars of recovery to make sure you’re properly prepared and ready to compete on game-day. You can click on the top right corner to watch our video on football recovery and learn everything you need to know about the topic.

RELATED: Basic Recovery Protocols For Football/Soccer Players

recovery and preparation for peak football performance

Conclusion

Energy drinks, coffee, and caffeine overall are overrated amongst footballers. You don’t need to stop using them strategically, but I definitely want you to rethink your game-day prep and stop relying on them.

If you take care of all the fundamentals, you won’t have to search for pre-game quick fixes.

I highly suggest you not rely on them and view them as a “quick-fix” for all your performance-related issues.

If you end up using them, however, make sure you’re doing it in the right way and you’re first checking up with your doctor to get their permission.

energy drinks, coffee, and football performance

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REFERENCES

[1] Mielgo-Ayuso J, Calleja-Gonzalez J, Del Coso J, Urdampilleta A, León-Guereño P, Fernández-Lázaro D. Caffeine Supplementation and Physical Performance, Muscle Damage and Perception of Fatigue in Soccer Players: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2019 Feb 20;11(2):440. doi: 10.3390/nu11020440. PMID: 30791576; PMCID: PMC6412526.

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