Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Energy drinks and exercise a bad mix?

It is common in athletics/sport where practice precedes research. Energy drinks fall into this paradigm. Athletes have long recognized that a little caffeine intake may improve focus and possibly athletic performance. It then seems as if the mentality of [if a little bit is good, a lot must be better] becomes practice. It did not seem long before the energy drink companies were racing to see which drink had the most stimulating results. Physicians recognized the dangers in 2008 when they petitioned for the regulation of energy drinks. There has recently been another call by physicians for the regulation of these drinks (especially with the addition of alcohol). Athletically, where the problem falls is that any true energy that is derived from these drinks comes from their carbohydrate content. The caffeine, guarana and taurine provide only a perceived form of energy by stimulating the brain and generating a stress response so that the body perceives that it has the energy to respond. Since energy drinks are classified as a food supplement, the FDA does not have the authority to require the amount of caffeine put into the label. Here is the problem; the half life of caffeine is approximately 4-6 hours and the amount guarana and taurine do not have to be listed. How many exercises sessions or sports last 4-6 hours. The heart is a muscle that needs rest just like the rest of the muscles in the body. Not much is known on the relationship of the various ingredients in energy drinks or their possible synergistic effects. With the prolific expansion of the energy drink business where a wide variety of stimulating ingredients (studied and unstudied) are added to the various drinks, it may not be coincidence that there seems to be an alarming number of heart arrhythmia problems being diagnosed in athletes today where energy drinks may be a contributing factor. Since energy drinks basically work by generating a stress response, energy drinks will increase the blood pressure, heart rate, urination (leading to dehydration) and anxiety levels in the adult. These same side effects are often magnified to toxic overdose levels in the youth athlete.

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