A topic that has been raised recently among our junior athletes is the place of energy drinks in their diets, and whether or not these are good choices on a regular basis or even to consume before/during a round of golf. Before I go any further I am going to make my stance on this clear – energy drinks do not have a place in the diet of an adolescent or a growing/developing junior athlete, period. I would argue they don’t have any nutritional value for an adult either.
I understand the “cool” factor of drinking a Red Bull, a Monster, or a BANG energy drink may be greater than that of a glass of water, but when it comes to an adolescent’s general health and well-being (let alone performing at a high level academically and athletically) there are countless options that will support those endeavors better than a 5 Hour Energy or the like. Nutritionally, these drinks don’t hold any weight. Will they give you a burst of energy? Sure. If you’re relying on these to do that, though, I’d encourage you to look at your lifestyle to understand why you are in that situation to begin with. Are you eating well balanced meals frequently? Are you staying hydrated with water? Are you getting enough quality sleep? These are just a few factors, that if given attention, should take the need or reliance on energy drinks out of the equation.
The daily recommended intake of caffeine for an adolescent is 100mg. This can come from various places throughout the day! To give perspective, 100 mg is approximately 1 cup of coffee, a few cans of a soda (also just plain bad for you), or a few cups of tea. The energy drinks on the market range from 80-500mg of caffeine per can! The scary part about these products, however, is that they aren’t regulated. There is no governing body responsible for making sure that what they say is in their product, is actually in their product (or in the amounts that are advertised). Words like “proprietary blend” are the last thing a young, growing athlete needs to put in their system and not knowing how much caffeine is truly in these drinks can lead to serious health issues sooner rather than later. Needless to say there is a reason there is a recommended age of 18+ on many of these cans.
According to the University of Michigan Health website excessive caffeine consumption “can lead to dangerous abnormal heart rhythms or lead to neurologic symptoms of hallucinations or seizures.”
Caffeine is a diuretic, often resulting in dehydration. Dehydration leads to a lack of focus, poor decision making, and can cause tremors and various other neurological symptoms if serious. Temporary increases in heart rate and blood pressure can lead to heightened anxiety, as well as restlessness and insomnia. All of these things hinder your ability to perform in the classroom and on the golf course.
Very simply, I encourage parents and athletes to look in the mirror and have honest conversations about why they are drinking these drinks and alternatives to them. When debating whether or not you really need that energy drink next time you’re feeling a little groggy ask yourself, If I don’t take care of my body, where am I going to live?
U of M article: