When it comes to working out, be careful what you put in your water bottle. Many people, particularly younger athletes, are drawn to energy drinks for their alleged benefits: increased alertness and enhanced mental and sports performance.
Unfortunately, energy drinks can be dangerous to certain people because of the excessive levels of caffeine, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, a leading authority for sports medicine and exercise science. The ACSM recently released a new official statement, including warnings, regarding energy drinks to help consumers understand the risks associated with rapid and excessive consumption of energy drinks.
Do not use energy drinks before, during or after strenuous exercise, the ACSM recommends. Regardless of health and fitness level, and until such time that proper safety and efficacy data are available, energy drinks should be avoided before, during or after strenuous activities. Some of the deaths allegedly due to energy drinks have occurred when a person consumed energy drinks before and/or after performing strenuous activities, according to the ACSM.
“Energy drinks are extremely popular and concerns about their consumption are coming from every sector of society, which is why we’ve published these recommendations.” said John Higgins, MD, FACSM. “Our review of the available science showed that excessive levels of caffeine found in energy drinks can have adverse effects on cardiovascular, neurological, gastrointestinal, renal and endocrine systems, as well as psychiatric symptoms. More needs to be done to protect children and adolescents, as well as adults with cardiovascular or other medical conditions.”
Energy drinks might sound harmless, however, it’s their concoction of ingredients that pose potential problems. In addition to high amounts of caffeine, these drinks often contain a myriad of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and herbal mixtures.
“When used safely and with moderation, energy drinks may have some short-term, performance-enhancing effects. However, users are generally unaware of the many potential adverse reactions that could have long-term effects, some of which are quite serious,” Higgins said in a statement. We highly encourage consumers, parents, physicians, athletic trainers, personal trainers and coaches to follow these recommendations.”
The ACSM recommendations state:
- Energy drinks should not be consumed by children or adolescents.
- Energy drinks should not be consumed by other vulnerable populations, including pregnant or breastfeeding women, caffeine naïve or sensitive individuals or individuals with cardiovascular or medical conditions.
- Energy drinks should not be used for sports hydration.
- Energy drinks should not be mixed with alcohol.
- Energy drinks should bear a label such as “High Source of Caffeine” or “Do Not Mix with Alcohol”
Always consult your health provider before trying any supplement or energy drink. If you have nutrition concerns or want to learn how food can fuel the body, consult a Registered Dietitian.