"Oh sweet coffee, I adore thee". At one point or another (Monday mornings, we're looking at you!) in our lives we've probably all been there and thought that thought. But, on a scale from zero to caffeine-junkie, how deep is the love between fencers and coffee? And even more interesting: is there a correlation between your intake of the magical black brew and the weapon you fence? We've called in an expert in the matter, our very own Jon Willis, to share the results of many years of (semi)-serious study with you.
Are you ready for the results ;)? Then read on!
Fencers and Coffee - a (semi-serious) study about a special bond
by Jon Willis
There have been several studies into the use caffeine in fencing and sport in general. In fact Caffeine has been a prohibited substance on the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) list but it was removed in 2003 to prevent athletes who drink cola or coffee from testing positive to banned substances.
In 2017 WADA added caffeine to its Monitoring Program for 2017 so experts could study whether athletes are using the substance with the intent of enhancing performance.
The old threshold from when caffeine was previously on the prohibited list was 12 micrograms per millilitre, which amounts to about four ‘Starbucks lattes’ ingested within a couple of hours, according to Men’s Health. ‘More caffeine is not necessarily better’ a report published by the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association states. ‘Caffeine consumed at very high levels, 6-9 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight, can cause gastrointestinal issues, nausea or shaking, as well as overstimulation that can negatively impact training, sleep and performance.
Likewise, the report said some caffeine can enhance speed and stamina, but it really depends on the individual.
This is all very interesting but I wanted to answer the big question of which weapon drinks the most coffee!
The test was simple, over the 2016/17 season I recorded the takings from the Leon Paul Fencing Centre Coffee Vending Machine at competitions to see which weapons consumed the most coffee.
On average fencers drink 0.53 cups of coffee per event with U23 Sabre fencers consuming the most at 1.04 cups per fencer. At the other end of the scale are the veterans who only drink 0.20 cups per competition but I suspect this low number is because many bring a thermos with them to competitions, you only get that level of experience with age I guess.
I’m not going to make any jokes about women’s foil averaging 0.96 cups per fencer or epee team requiring 2.8 cups per team to be able to fence. The majority of coffee was consumed at cadet and junior competitions from which I conclude that its mainly the poor supporters and coaches that need their nerves settling or aid in staying awake.
After looking at all the data, the only conclusions that can be drawn is that the study was not very scientific and I won’t be winning any Nobel Prizes in the near future. I’m currently looking for ideas for future Leon Paul Fencing Centre studies like the correlation between a fencers world ranking and its need for free wifi.