As amateur athletes, it’s easy to see how and why we become too tired and drained to attend the evening’s training or the weekend’s game. We work full time, study, fit in family time, as well as the unexpected jobs that pop up.
Such happenings make it extremely easy to reach for the quick and easy fix of a stimulant that can be bought pretty much anywhere, at any time without a second thought…of course i'm talking about energy drinks.
There are many myths behind these types of drinks and many brands claiming to ‘improve athletic performance.’ But what, if any positive effects (short term and long term) do these drinks have on you?
In the short term it can’t be denied that with such a high content of sugar (some up to 15 tablespoons in a can or bottle) you are going to achieve a quick fix and may even experience improved focus and alertness.
This is achieved by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, releasing adrenaline and noradrenaline. But this is short lasting and will soon pass to potentially dangerous, and in some cases even fatal levels…
Due to the high level of caffeine (100mg-200mg per can/ bottle) and sugar, just one drink can lead to severe headaches, nausea, vomiting and if drunk in excessive amounts, even death, due to its negative effects on the cardiovascular system, including increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Contrary to what is believed about energy drinks, their effects are short lived and it has been noted by regular users to cause excessive tiredness in the 24hours following consuming an energy drink, leading to a reduced level of focus, alertness and performance over time – basically a quick fix becomes detrimental. And with no strong evidence to prove any prolonged improvement in athletic performance they truly are an energy source to avoid.
Other known side effects to regular consumption of energy drinks include:
- Dehydration due to their high caffeine content, and contrary to some beliefs they are not suitable in aiding recovery following sports performance as they do not contain any salts
- More than 1 or 2 cans in a day can lead to anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and irritability due to the effects upon the nervous system.
- Risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Increased risk of developing a cardiovascular disease
Please note that although popular, mixing alcohol with energy drinks can be fatal as the combination can have a major detriment on cognitive function and reasoning leading to risky behaviours. Due to the combination of alcohol lowering the heart rate and the energy drink speeding it up, this can lead to heart attacks and long-term dysfunctional heart function.
So what can we do instead to gain that extra energy boost?
One thing you can’t sacrifice or replace is the positive effect of correct sleep patterns and ensuring sufficient sleep. Another aspect is diet; eating slow release energy such as porridge oats, fruit or a tea or coffee (if you do need that quick fix and boost) will more than give you that push in a much healthier way.
When should we seek this most?
The body naturally dips between 2pm-4pm as blood sugars drop and tiredness from the day can begin to set in. around this time is an ideal opportunity to get in a coffee, eat a few pieces of fruit and if possible fit in a 20 minute break to recharge.
Get revved up and ready to put in a performance to be proud of without the risks and side effects!