Can caffeine really boost our athletic performance? What if we are already chronic coffee drinkers? The answers are Yes and Yes. New York Times health columnist Gretchen Reynolds reports on a new study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology that suggests that it really doesn’t matter how often you drink coffee, one cup imbibed an hour or so before exercise will still give you a boost, albeit a small one. It does this, Reynolds tells us, by making it easier for muscles to burn body fat, and also by increasing alertness, which seems to make exercise feel less strenuous. Reynolds tell us that the latest research debunks the long-held belief that habitual coffee drinking neutralized the boost in performance. The researchers tested the theory by giving 40 competitive cyclists either a placebo or 400 milligrams of caffeine (equal to about four cups of coffee) before a time trial, during which they rode as hard as possible until they had burned through about 450 calories. The researchers found that almost all of the riders had pedaled hardest and fastest after swallowing the caffeine pill, going 3.3 percent faster than those who had no pill and 2.2 percent faster than those who took the placebo. They also found that the results were the same whether the riders normally were light, moderate or heavy caffeine users.