Effects of Acute Caffeine Ingestion on Cognitive Performance before and after Repeated Small-Sided Games in Professional Soccer Players: A Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Crossover Trial

Rodrigo Freire de Almeida, Mateus de Oliveira, Isadora Clivatti Furigo, Rodrigo Aquino, Neil Clarke, Jason Tallis, Lucas Guimarães-Ferreira

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Abstract

Soccer is a team sport that requires players to process a significant amount of information quickly and respond with both speed and accuracy to the ever-changing demands of the game. As such, success in soccer depends not only on physical attributes but also on cognitive abilities such as perception and decision-making. The aim of the current study was to investigate the acute effects of caffeine ingestion on Stroop test performance before and after repeated small-sided games (SSG) in professional soccer players. Twelve professional male soccer players (29 ± 4.1 years; 78.1 ± 7.7 kg body mass) participated in this study. A randomized crossover double-blind placebo-controlled trial was used. Caffeine (5 mg.kg−1) or a placebo was ingested 45 min before a protocol consisting of five 5 min SSG with 1 min rest intervals. A computerized version of the colour Stroop test was completed immediately before and after the exercise protocol. During the Stroop test, words appeared on the computer screen in three different ways: (i) neutral words (neutral condition); (ii) correspondent colour (i.e., “red” painted in red; congruent condition), or; (iii) different colour (i.e., “red” painted in green; incongruent condition). The incongruent condition aimed to cause the interference effect, as the colour and the word did not match. Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) were assessed after each SSG. RPE increased during the five sets of the SSG protocol (p < 0.001), without differences between the caffeine and placebo trials. The soccer-specific exercise protocol promoted a faster response during the Stroop test (two-way ANOVA main effect for SSG protocol: p < 0.05), with no differences in accuracy (p > 0.05). Caffeine ingestion resulted in slower reaction time during the Stroop test during the congruent and neutral trials but not during the incongruent trial (two-way ANOVA main effect for supplementation: p = 0.009, p = 0.045, and p = 0.071, respectively). Accuracy was lower in the caffeine trial in congruent and incongruent trials (p < 0.05 caffeine vs. placebo both on the pre- and post-SSG protocol). In conclusion, a soccer-specific exercise protocol improved the Stroop test performance in professional soccer players, but acute caffeine ingestion (5 mg.kg−1) was detrimental.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3094
Number of pages11
JournalNutrients
Volume15
Issue number14
Early online date10 Jul 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Keywords

  • soccer
  • caffeine
  • Stroop test
  • executive function
  • nutritional supplementation
  • small-sided games

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