There are many products on the market that promise to enhance athletic performance.  However, very few of those products actually hold up to the hoopla. 

"Very few have actually been shown, scientifically," said Grove City College professor Dr. Philip Prins. "Caffeine has been shown to do so."

The bulk of that research focuses on caffeine's effects on endurance exercise.  Last year, Dr. Prins decided to study the effects of energy drinks on short distance running performance.  His findings were just recently featured in Shape magazine.  

"So, what we found was that 500 ml of Red Bull when administered 60 minutes before the event significantly improved 5K running performance by about 30 seconds," said Dr. Prins.

Dr. Prins decided to take his research a step further, recently, to see if the energy drink or the ingredients that make up the drink; caffeine, taurine or glucose, were behind the faster times.  Turns out, caffeine on its own is showing to have the greatest impact. Dr. Prins expects to publish those findings later this year.

"The research shows that there is a difference between habitual users or heavy users of caffeine and non-users.  If you are a non-user of caffeine and now I take the caffeine, my performance, I am going to see a much bigger bump in my performance," said Dr. Prins.

Dr. Prins says more research would be needed to determine if caffeine could increase performance during high-intensity exercises.  However, if a person wants to test the theory on their own, the recommendation is to consume between three and six milligrams of caffeine for each kilogram of their body weight, 60 minutes before their activity.

To determine body weight in kilograms, divide body weight in pounds by 2.2.  Following this recommendation, a 220 lb person should consume between 300 and 600 milligrams, which is the equivalent of three to six cups of coffee.  

For non-users of caffeine or people who consume small amounts of caffeine, Dr. Prins recommends first starting with the lowest recommended amount of caffeine.