Coffee Experiment


I’m doing a randomized controlled trial on myself. I average a 20% boost in cardio performance after I drink coffee verses just drinking vitamin water. But I want to know how much of that is physiological and how much is placebo. So I have designed the following experiment to find out:

I bought 18 Donut House Coffee K-Cups and 18 Donut House Decaf K-Cups. All 36 are identical other than the contents having most of the caffeine removed or not, and their labels. I dumped all 36 dumped into a bag and swirled it around. I will choose one at random before my workout (approximately every other morning) and insert it into a Kuerig without looking at it. I will then tell Kuerig to make 16 ounces of strong coffee, and mix in two heaping plastic spoonfuls of cocoa, 4 packets of Splenda, and a generous shot of vanilla extract. No fats added to the coffee … not bulletproof, etc…

I will prepare and eat a low-carb breakfast including eggs and steak, totaling 60-70 grams protein, and 760-840 total kcal
with the coffee. I’ll have 1-2 liters water with a lemon airborne tablet in each liter, drunk to thirst with breakfast.

I’ll have no coffee or caffeinated soft drinks for at least 45 hours before the test coffee. One hot chocolate 45-14 hours beforehand is acceptable. Last workout will be between 36-50 hours before each test.

The treadmill workout will begin 15-30 minutes after finishing breakfast and coffee.

I will warm up by walking 5 minutes at 20% grade, 2.1 mph, then ramp up speed to 2.3 mph and elevation to 27.5%. The primary result is the time to reach 1000 feet elevation increase (1184 cumulative feet including warm up). That is the fitness test for Tranter’s correction to Naismith’s rule. I will keep the speed at 2.3 mph during the whole test climb, and vary the elevation to climb as steeply as I feel I can sustain.

During the climb: I will:

– have water with a lemon airborne tablet in each liter, available to be drunk to thirst.

– have sugarfree gum in my mouth.

– listen to the “treadmill slow” playlist from beginning, so the same music every time.

– A/C set to 70, Fan blowing on me running at medium, towel available.

– Not hang on to the treadmill rails. Minimal resting of hands on my laptop is OK

– Record my Heart-rate and incline at 5 minute intervals, in beats per 10 seconds.

When I read 1000 feet elevation gain relative to the end of warm-up, I will record the time, final inclination, and final heart rate. I will then go find out if the coffee I drank was Decaf or Regular, and record that. Finally, I will record my shod weight, and any possible confounding factors.

After the test, I will also do HIIT and strength training workouts, but that’s not relevant to the test.

I’ve already done the first two test climbs. I randomly chose decaf for both, and my performance was definitely below what it had been on the previous attempt with caffeinated coffee (but that’s not a sample for this test, since I knew it was caffeinated while I was climbing). Both of the first two tests had confounding factors – one was after a “high-calorie meal” that got out of hand … I ended up eating 4000 Calories of mixed nuts in one sitting.Home_Alone

So … I’m not going to put myself in THAT situation again. Anyway, the other was that I had done a HIIT workout with 100m sprints 36 hours before, and was quite sore from it. In fact, I’m still sore now.

If any of you have suggestions on improving this trial, please let me know!


4 thoughts on “Coffee Experiment

  1. Update:
    After discussing this plan with my IRB (Erin), who gave me some excellent suggestions, I will also be recording the number of hours of sleep I get before each session. To keep the probability of drawing decaf from drifting away from 0.5, I will also pick a decaf and a regular out of the bag, then randomly choose between them and make the coffee without looking.


    1. OK. The Fates are having a laugh at my expense. This morning I did my fourth sample, and randomly pulled my fourth decaf. And that’s with picking one of each from the bag, twirling them behind my back for a while and then picking one…
      My brain knows it’s 0.5 every time regardless of history … but my gut says this time should have been caffeinated.


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