Research concludes caffeinated chewing gum improves basketball performance

By Matt Chittock

- Last updated on GMT

© Jon Enoch Photography Ltd / Getty Images
© Jon Enoch Photography Ltd / Getty Images

Related tags Research Vitamin d Maternal vitamin Infant nutrition Cognitive function

Caffeinated chewing gum provides a moderate-to-large performance boost for trained basketball players, according to a new study.

Researchers from Taiwan investigated the effects of chewing gum featuring a relatively low dose of caffeine (3 mg) on basketball performance across a range of tests.

Results suggested chewing gum containing 3 mg/kg of caffeine offers “moderate-to-large” improvements in key performance aspects relevant to professionally trained basketball players.

“Based on these data, chewing caffeinated gum before basketball training or competition is a way to improve basketball shooting accuracy and physical performance indicators,” the researchers wrote in the journal Nutrients​.

Caffeine for skill and performance

Existing research shows that caffeine supplements are effective for improving basketball players’ vertical jump height, agility and repeated sprinting ability.

They have also been found to benefit limb control and cognitive function​—both of which are relevant to basketball. A pre-exercise caffeine intake of 3 mg to 6 mg/kg of body weight effectively enhances performance in basketball and other ball sports. It typically reaches peak blood concentration one hour after being ingested.

Caffeinated chewing gum offers a faster absorption rate compared to caffeine capsules due to buccal mucosa absorption​ (absorption through the linking of the cheeks and back of the lips).

Study details

The double-blind, randomized crossover study recruited 15 healthy, adult male basketball players and assigned them to either caffeine (CAF) or  placebo (PL) group. The caffeine gum used was Military Energy Gum (Arctic Mint flavour)

All the chewing gum was mashed, ground, homogenized and reshaped after adding 0.3 g of peppermint flavoring powder. This ensured an indistinguishable color, appearance, taste, weight and size. 

Participants in the CAF group chewed gum containing 3 mg/kg of caffeine for 10 minutes. Those in the PL group chewed a gum without caffeine.

Each participant then completed basketball-specific performance tests including a stationary free-throw shooting test, countermovement jump, t-test (a standard method for assessing agility), 20 m linear sprint test, squats in the flywheel device (a standard piece of gym equipment) and running-based anaerobic sprint test.

Findings indicated that the CAF group achieved significantly higher free throw accuracy than the placebo group, performed significantly better in the 20 m segmented dash and showed lower fatigue. However, the caffeinated gum did not improve the subjects’ jump height or t-shaped agility test performance. 

“Based on these data, chewing caffeinated gum before basketball training or competition is a way to improve basketball shooting accuracy and physical performance indicators,” the researchers wrote.

“This study found that after chewing caffeine gum, there was a significant increase in free throw accuracy with a high effect size. This may be related to the fact that caffeine intake can effectively improve mental focus and coordination.”

Researchers did not measure blood caffeine concentration; however, they cited a previous study using the same chewing gum brand​ to demonstrate “our chewing duration and rest periods should have been sufficient for peak blood caffeine levels.” They also did not measure heart rate variability or brainwave changes, noting that this hindered their ability to pinpoint the exact mechanism by which caffeinated gum enhances athletic performance.

For future study, they suggest exploring the effects of high caffeine absorption from caffeine chewing gum on sympathetic nerves or brainwaves to identify potential mechanisms.

Source: Nutrients
doi: 10.3390/nu16091256
“Caffeinated Chewing Gum Improves Basketball Shooting Accuracy and Physical Performance Indicators of Trained Basketball Players: A Double-Blind Crossover Trial.”
Authors: Hou-Shao Liu et al.

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