Five Reasons the Young Rower Shouldn’t Drink an Energy Drink
Athletes use energy drinks to boost their energy before competition, rehydrate after a workout, improve attention and focus during school, “wake up,” or as a routine beverage at meals. Some just think it’s cool to drink energy drinks. Don’t be misled by something that sounds too good to be true—while an all-in-one drink is tempting, it carries some serious considerations for young athletes.
Energy drinks are one of the fastest growing segments of drink sales in America and their popularity is growing, especially among youth. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children and teens should avoid energy drinks.
Sports drinks are not energy drinks. A sports drink contains a small amount of carbohydrate, minerals, electrolytes and flavorings designed to replace those nutrients lost through sweating after exercise.
Energy drinks, on the other hand, contain stimulants including caffeine, herbal stimulants such as guarana and yerba mate, and taurine, an amino acid. Some also contain ginseng, which may enhance the effect of caffeine. Other elements may be added to energy drinks, but their benefits, safety and side effects are questionable.
Here are my top five reasons young rowers shouldn’t be drinking them:
An average energy drink contains 70-200 mg of caffeine per 16 ounces. Some energy drinks can contain up to 500 mg of caffeine, the equivalent of 14 cans of soda! For children and teens, caffeine consumption should be limited to 1.25 mg per pound of body weight (for a 100-lb. athlete, that equals 125 mg of caffeine per day). As a point of reference, a tall Starbucks beverage (12 ounces) contains 260 mg of caffeine. Too much caffeine is associated with agitation, anxiety, poor sleep, rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure and an altered mental state. In fact, more than 100 mg of caffeine per day in adolescents has been associated with high blood pressure.
As mentioned, extra vitamins, herbals, amino acids, and more can be found in energy drinks. In a study conducted by Consumer Reports, ingredients in energy drinks were undisclosed on the label or were present in different amounts than listed. Certain herbals, like guarana, are a source of caffeine, while other ingredients, like taurine, make caffeine more potent.
Sugar and calories
Energy drinks contain sugar—up to 30 gm per cup (almost ¼ cup of sugar). Limiting sugar consumption is a healthy practice, for any growing child and teen, whether an athlete or not, especially in today’s world where sugar consumption in kids and teens is already too high.
Energy drinks are dehydrating. Due to the high concentration of caffeine, energy drinks encourage increased and frequent urination. Energy drinks with higher sugar content can compound the dehydrating effects of caffeine. For a sport that is already prone to dehydration, drinking energy drinks places the young rower at higher risk for dehydration.
Fighting fatigue? You’d never know if you were routinely using an energy drink. Too much caffeine can mask fatigue. Gauging fatigue is important to staying fit, healthy and active, especially as an athlete. If loaded up on caffeine, athletes may miss the body’s signal for rest.
No magic bullet replaces a nutritious diet of real, wholesome food, adequate water and other healthy liquids, or a good night’s sleep. And that’s no (red) bull.
Written by Jill Castle, MS, RDN | Mar 30, 2015
Jill Castle, MS, RDN is a childhood nutrition expert and co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School (www.fearlessfeeding.com) and author of the upcoming book, Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete (www.nutritionforyoungathletes.com) available July 2015. She lives with her husband and four children in New Canaan, CT. Find out about Jill at www.JillCastle.com.