Young athletes today are wanting to find any edge or opportunity to feel like they are increasing performance. Energy drinks are becoming part of that almost daily routine. It’s important the athletes know what is happening to their bodies when drinking them before practices or games and the dangers associated with usage.
Energy drinks are marketed to young adults and that exposure allows even teenagers to feel like they will benefit from drinking them. They see and hear about how this product will help them perform, be more awake, alert and increase their energy level. Energy drinks contain extremely ultra-high levels of caffeine, vitamins and sugar where sports drinks are designed to replenish dehydration with salt and electrolytes the body loses during sport.
One thing is true about energy drinks; there will be a performance increase, but it will not be long lasting. For a while after drinking them, according to studies, athletes will get a short-term increase in endurance, improved reaction time but what athletes are not considering when using the products is that there is usually a reduction in stability to the hands likely due to caffeine jitters. Studies say there will also be a crash to the system.
A crash occurs roughly two hours after drinking an energy drink. The highly elevated sugar and caffeine levels rapidly drop off after about two hours and a crash is usually indicated by sudden fatigue and headache. This is where most young athletes get into health trouble with energy drinks. Many have the opinion that more is better when in reality more can be very detrimental to the wellbeing of the athlete. Energy drink users have seen an increase in emergency room visits. The National Institutes of Health have posted stats that mention over 20,000 trips are associated with energy drinks. That study was in 2011.
Symptoms that cause these trips are dehydration, jitters, insomnia, irregular heartbeat and heart failure. A long-time worry is high blood pressure. Danger signs of energy drinks include rapid heartbeat, ringing or buzzing in the ears, hyperventilation, headache, dizziness and pain. Parents and coaches should be aware of energy drink usage and pay close attention to their athlete and take note of any of these signs or changes especially aggressive behavior.
Although stats show that there have been less than 40 deaths related to the sole usage of energy drinks, an athlete must realize that combining these with alcohol or simply overusing them can put them into a hazardous situation where death is a real possibility. Mixing the high levels of caffeine and alcohol creates an issue where the drinker doesn’t actually feel the true effects of the alcohol and is more likely to make bad choices. In this case, deaths occur more often.
Mara Brock, Athletic Trainer at Cumberland Gap High School had this to say about the drinks, “These drinks can be very dangerous. Most times the dangers outweigh the benefits. While participating in athletics, proper hydration is vital to your performance and overall health. Energy drinks can increase fluid loss and cause digestive upset/diarrhea resulting in dehydration. Also, these drinks can disturb your sleep, increase anxiety, cause irregular or rapid heart rate, liver problems and can even result in heart attack or even death. My best advice would be, just don’t.”
Both parents and athletes alike must realize the dangers of drinking these products and choose safer alternatives before games, like sports drinks and the absolute best beverage for top athletes, water. -AE
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