Caffeine Is on NCAA Banned Substances List?



Caffeine is on the NCAA banned substances list.

A Reddit post (archived) shared in June 2024 claimed that caffeine is included on the banned substances list produced by the NCAA, the nonprofit organization that governs intercollegiate athletics in the United States. 

Caffeine — specifically guarana — was indeed included in the “stimulants” drug class, alongside amphetamine, cocaine and methamphetamine, on the NCAA banned substances list, which was most recently updated in July 2023.

However, caffeine is not banned outright, but its use must be limited, according to the third-party supplement certification company Banned Substances Control Group. The group writes that for an athlete to test positive for caffeine in the NCAA there must be more than 15 micrograms per milliliter (ug/ml, or parts per million) found in a sample. 

It takes about 500 mg of caffeine, or roughly five cups of coffee, to reach this limit, according to the United States Olympic Committee Sport Nutrition Team

“Caffeine is the most widely accepted and commonly consumed drug in the world,” the USOC group wrote. “Caffeine activates receptors in the brain and body that counteract many of the inhibitory effects fatigue has on mental and physical performance. It is now widely considered an ‘ergogenic aid,’ or something that enhances performance.”

Caffeine can enhance exercise performance, improve reaction time, and delay fatigue, the group said. 

According to the College and Professional Sports Dietitians Association and NCAA Sports Science Institute , about 200-300 milligrams of caffeine — roughly two or three 8-ounce cups of coffee — per day is generally considered safe. 

“There is evidence to support caffeine’s benefits for both physical and mental performance, but the timing of consuming caffeine, the form of caffeine, your current caffeine use, and the amount consumed must be carefully considered,” the groups wrote in an informational publication.  

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