People with asthma have an 80% chance of experiencing exercised-induced asthma (EIA), an acute narrowing of the airway that causes difficulty in breathing.

About 10% of elite athletes, as well as 10% of the general population, are also afflicted with EIA, even if they’re not asthmatics.

The condition is usually treated with albuterol, an inhaler-dispensed medication that opens the airway and increases air flow to the lungs.

In a recent study, Indiana University researchers have discovered that ingestion of a large dose of caffeine—9 mg per kilogram of body weight—within an hour of exercise can reduce EIA symptoms. Smaller dosages of 3 to 6 mg caffeine per kilogram of body weight also reduced EIA symptoms like wheezing and coughing.

For someone weighing 150 pounds, 3 to 9 mg caffeine per kilogram of body weight equals around 205 to 610 mg of caffeine. As a reference, one cup of coffee contains 80 to 135 mg caffeine.

No additional benefit was noted when caffeine was combined with an albuterol inhaler, according to study coinvestigator Timothy Mickleborough, PhD, an IU associate professor of kinesiology.

He and his colleagues have also found that a diet high in fish oil and antioxidants and low in salt has the potential to reduce EIA severity and possibly decrease the need for drug therapy.

For Your Organic Bookshelf: Exercising Safely with Exercise-Induced Asthma