We talked about coffee so of course, the next thing had to be energy drinks. There is no shortage of opinions when it comes to energy drinks, everything from, “you should drink one before every workout” to “you should never drink them they will burn through your stomach”. While we all know that the last one is a little far-fetched we sat down with a few caffeine experts from Novant Health to get the full story. Should athletes be drinking energy drinks? Let’s find out.
What Does Caffeine Do?
Before we can know if caffeine is right for you and your athletic endeavors, let’s start at the beginning… with what caffeine actually does. Caffeine is classified as a stimulant and works to speed up the signals from our brain to our body. The feelings of hyper-awareness and performance can be significant and make you feel like you have an edge in competition, but as some readers know it can also be addictive and the effects lessen the more you drink. It’s also important to pay attention to how you get that caffeine. Coffee, tea, and of course energy drinks are all different and provide different pros and cons.
Why Energy Drinks?
Energy drinks are the caffeine intake method of choice for many people, whether they need to stay awake for their next meeting or get in the zone for a workout. Energy drinks can provide a quick boost and some of the claims are pretty wild so how can they promise so much energy with no crash? Well as you might imagine things are not always as they seem.
The first thing you need to know about energy drinks is that by and large they are not considered drinks and therefore not subjected to scrutiny by the Food and Drug Administration. Energy drinks are considered supplements and the rules for supplements are much more relaxed than for food and drinks.
Check Your Labels
One of the biggest differences between a supplement and a food/drink is the label. When you buy food, a box of Cheerios for example, the law requires they add a Nutrition Facts Label, which is regulated by the FDA. However, when you buy some energy drinks you’ll see a Supplement Label, which is not regulated by the FDA. Companies that make supplements do not have to disclose what is in their supplement as well as how much of each ingredient is in each supplement.
Of course this raises some red flags with us, as well as our friends from Novant Health, because it is always important to know what you are putting into your body. Not knowing the exact amounts of caffeine you are consuming can quickly become detrimental to your performance as well as your health. Not to mention, since they don’t have to include a detailed ingredients list it is possible that you might not know about other ingredients in your energy “drink”.
Note for Elite Athletes: Be careful with the energy drinks you consume because some of the ingredients might be considered illegal performance enhancement, resulting in disciplinary action.
- Caffeine is a banned substance by the NCAA at high levels, so at the levels that are in some of these drinks, if taken close to an unexpected drug test can cause a positive test.
- Other substances like guarana, which is in Celsius, are also on the NCAA banned substance list.
To Drink or Not to Drink?
When you are deciding whether or not to drink that energy drink keep in mind that although the benefits of energy drinks can be great there is some risk associated with over indulging and with those strictly classified as supplements. It is important for everyone to know what is going into their bodies and that goes doubly for athletes that want to perform at their best.
Don’t get us wrong, for some people an energy drink once a day or every few days won’t hurt, and might even see an improvement in your training. Just remember everything in moderation, especially when it comes to caffeine and energy drinks. At least that’s what our friends at Novant Health keep telling us!