Frank Horwill



  • These articles were first published many year's ago and whilst some are as relevant today as they were when new, many are now mostly of historical interest as modern research and coaching methods have superseded them.

Nutrition and Speed

By Frank Horwill

Attempts have been made to improve reaction time nutritionally. One bit of research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in the 1970s revealed that the reaction time of fencers was clearly improved after taking double the RDA for the vitamin B complex for 14 days before testing. This is worth considering for other sports where the reaction to the start gun is vitally important.

While the judicious use of caffeine has been well documented in endurance runners, the evidence for its use to increase basic speed is scanty. However, one bit of research is worthy of study ("Benefits of Caffeine Ingestion on Sprint Performance in Trained and Untrained Swimmers", European Journal of Applied Physiology, volume 63, pages 377-380,1992). This revealed that caffeine did enhance sprinting ability on a bicycle and can boost 100m swimming speed. However, caution is required and the following rules should be observed:

  • Consult a sports doctor before combining caffeine with high-intensity exercise

  • To achieve peak absorption of caffeine, it makes sense to ingest it about one hour before exercise.

  • Abstain from coffee drinking for seven days before use.

  • Do not exceed two cups of strong coffee or tablets containing more than 200mg of caffeine. For it to cause suspension from any sport, anything in excess of 12mcg/ml in urine will do the trick. To achieve that, you would have to take 1,200mg of pure caffeine (about six strong cups of coffee), and such an amount can make you very ill.