Energy drinks have become a common thing to see in supermarkets and convenience stores. Its very common for parents to stop at a gas station and have their children run in and grab a quick drink before practice. The problem occurs when you turn to the nutrition label on many of these so-called energy drinks. Young athletes who are often allured by the graphics, colors, and fun names while many fail to pay attention to what they are placing in their bodies.
As a health care professional that has worked closely with wide variety of athletes its surprises me the number of times I have had to speak up on not drinking these energy drinks prior to practices or games due to the substances they contain and more importantly the threat they pose on the body. Many athletes have the common feeling of wanting to get a quick fix of energy due to feeling fatigue or just tired. The problem arises that many of these energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and a mixture of various herbs and supplements. Unlike sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade, which contain 6 to 7% of carbohydrates, many of these energy drinks contain 8 to 9% carbohydrates, which prevent proper fluid absorption, and may lead to abdominal cramping. Due to high caffeine levels these energy drinks may also lead to dehydration and may cause abnormally high heart rates otherwise known as tachycardia.
A number of high school districts throughout the country have banned the consumption or possession of energy drinks due to the number of emergency calls that have been made due to young athletes experiencing tachycardia and dehydrated related illnesses. An easy way for parents and coaches to explain why energy drinks are not ideal for athletes are as follows: many of those drinks dump a large amount of sugar and caffeine into your body and then within a short period of time its gone and your left feeling more fatigue then you were before. I would also explain how it is dangerous for the heart itself which already beats at high rates due to physical activity but when you add in some of those stimulants in energy drinks its like shocking one’s body and pushing it to beat even faster at dangerous levels.
Some tips for parents and coaches to discern if a product is good or bad for your athlete:
- Be leery of statements that claim to give a quick energy fix with consumption, lets face it nothing but good rest and nutrition will provide a true feeling of readiness.
- Read the label on may of these energy drinks, and if you are unfamiliar with a number of the supplements then that is a good indication one should not consume such products.
- Be aware of any prescription medication your athlete is taking since some medications have interactions with many of these new unknown herbs and supplements.
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