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Healthy Living Blog

How Energy Drinks Affect Athletes


Energy DrinksEveryone is looking for an edge these days.

That’s especially true in the increasingly competitive world of youth sports. Parents shell out thousands of dollars for club teams, camps and even private coaches. So if a high school sprinter can spend $2 on an energy drink that will boost her performance at a big meet, that’s an inexpensive way to get ahead.

Except it isn’t.

First, let’s look at some statistics and how energy drinks affect athletes. Energy drinks are one of the fastest-growing segments of the beverage industry, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp. And the $3 billion energy drink industry is largely targeted at teenagers and young adults.

A quick look at industry marketing shows what they’re selling. SoBe No Fear’s website shows inspiring photos of mountain bikers soaring over peaks in a rugged desert landscape. Amp Energy drinks promise “All the energy you need.” Red Bull’s website shows an astronaut in outer space, alongside the tagline “Giving wings to people and ideas.”

That’s an attractive message to the high school quarterback whose team needs one more win to make it to the state finals.

The problem is that these energy drinks typically contain between 100 and 1,200 milligrams of caffeine. That’s the equivalent of one to 12 cups of coffee. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents drink no more than 100 milligrams of caffeine per day and says that “stimulant-containing energy drinks have no place in the diets of children and adolescents.”

Ingesting caffeine carries a risk of increased blood pressure, anxiety, shaking, elevated heart rate and increased urine production, which increases the risk of dehydration. It’s safe to say that none of these effects are good for young athletes.

What’s more, some of these energy drinks contain significant amounts of sugar which, in too high a concentration, will slow the rate at which fluids are reabsorbed from the intestine into the blood.

These drinks can make it difficult to stay hydrated. And once an athlete is dehydrated, his performance will suffer. But far more importantly, dehydration can be dangerous, especially in the summer when it increases the risk of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

It’s true that athletes will always be attracted to products that claim to have performance-enhancing effects—especially when those drinks are marketed to teens. But energy drinks are not adequate substitutes for the time, training, rest, recovery and proper fueling that all athletes need.

So what should our young sprinters, gymnasts and soccer players be drinking? Plain old water or properly formulated sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade—neither of which contain caffeine. Water is the best way to flush out the system and keep your body hydrated, while sports drinks help replace electrolytes.

Is the athlete in your family looking to take his or her game to the next level? There is no shortcut, but there are training techniques that can boost performance and help prevent injury.

Contact us today at 419-668-8101 ext. 6143 to find out more about Fisher-Titus Medical Center Athletic Training Services.

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