The Bad News About Energy Drinks, Adolescents & Young Athletes...

Energy drinks and adolescents/young athlete’s are a marketers dream come true. An easily influenced demographic that has been shown & told that their idols + extreme athletes ‘consume’ them, which has implanted in their brain that they’re beneficial and essential for performance. Is this fixation and consumption of energy drinks (especially among sedentary adolescents) causing more harm than meets the eye… And what’s really in these energy drinks, and in what amounts? Here is our take on energy drinks, adolescents, and young athletes…

A quick trip to the local supermarket or petrol station’s drink aisle will leave you in bewilderment these days. Energy drinks flood the eye… Monster, Red Bull, V, Mother… take your choice. And the fact that (as of the time of writing this, I couldn’t find any) there’s no regulations on purchasing means it’s quite easy for adolescents to get their hands on them

In fact, studies have shown up to 2/3rds of high school students had consumed energy drinks often within the past year. Quite an alarming statistic

These drinks are marketed with dreams of increased athletic performance, fat loss, increased concentration, and increased energy levels - interesting topics for the youth of today. Funnily enough, however, all of these things can also be brought about by food and exercise - but they’re not as ‘sexy’ as energy drinks

What’s In Them?

A quick look at the ingredients list of these beverages will leave you scratching your head. Ingredients like Taurine, Guarana, B-Complex Vitamins, Caffeine, Ginseng, Green Tea Extract, Green Coffee Extract, Ginkgo Biloba, and Carnitine make up the bulk of the ingredients list. Why use these, and what are their true effects on the body…

Caffeine: the component of coffee that we all love, caffeine is made up of three different metabolites - theophylline, theobromine, and paraxanthine - which increase lipolysis (metabolism of fat), increase heart rate, cause vasodilation (blood vessels become bigger), and relax the smooth muscle of the lungs. Numerous studies have found it beneficial for performance, but you can just have a coffee… It is our personal belief that caffeine should be very limited in those under 18 years of age, and the recommended intake for adults in 210mg/day. Most energy drinks contain 80-160mg caffeine per can

Taurine: an amino acid, there has been no evidence of this having a beneficial effect to performance as to date

Guarana: a plant found in the Amazon, this is simply a source of caffeine - yet it has been found to contain twice as much caffeine of coffee. Guarana itself contains theophylline and theobromine, so this increases the overall caffeine content of the beverage

Ginseng: an East-Asian herb, it has never been proven to have any beneficial performance enhancing effects

Green Tea-Extract: a source of a small amount of caffeine, this is where green-tea extract gets it’s “performance enhancing” effects from. Know that use of this ingredient increases the overall caffeine content

Green-Coffee-Bean Extract: green coffee beans are simply unroasted coffee beans, and again, simply a source of caffeine. So yet again, if used, this bumps up the caffeine content of the drink

Ginkgo Biloba: from the Chinese Ginkgo tree, this herbal supplement has been found to have some beneficial uses in dementia and Alzheimer's patients, but nothing for sports performance

Carnitine: an amino acid that is supposed to increase endurance and promote the usage of fat for energy,  ‘supplemental carnotite’ is only required if it’s deficient in the diet - which is very rare. Once again, this provides no extra performance effects for young athletes

B-Group Vitamins: naturally found in foods such as lean meats, animal products, mushrooms, eggs, and green leafy vegetables. There has been no evidence however that B-group vitamins aid in performance and these ‘water soluble vitamins’ are excreted in the urine when consumed in excess

Why Be Wary…

The Sugar Content: the sugar content of many energy drinks can be upwards of 40g, which is quite high considering it is recommended that we get <10% of our daily energy from added sugar

The Caffeine Level: just know that on the ingredients list it’s not just the marked “caffeine” that contains caffeine… the guarana, green tea extract, and green coffee bean extract also contains caffeine

The Side Effects: Studies (found HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE) all found side effects such as nervousness, insomnia, and overstimulation amongst users

Final Takeaway

In our true, no BS style here is our final thought on this topic within the context of this demographic (and adults for that matter)

The main reason people adolescents and adults consume these beverages are for a “pick me up” or “energy blitz” before training as they’re not quite feeling it… and yet, this is your body talking to you… so instead of trying to mask how you feel, why not listen to your body by taking today a little easier, and have a look into your sleep, food intake, and all other recovery factors before reaching for something like an energy drink - as that’s like constantly applying a bandaid instead of really fixing the problem

NutritionNick Maier