Athletes and energy drinks don't mix

Every athlete is looking for a competitive advantage. That advantage may be a better training technique, more advanced equipment or a different strategic approach.

Medicinal supplements have recently become a focus of attention and among the more popular are energy drinks. Most energy drinks are a combination of caffeine and sugar with assorted other herbal additions to boost the potency. The marketing and sale of energy drinks has become a multi-billion dollar enterprise that attempts to appeal to all segments of society regardless of gender, age or socioeconomic status.

Despite the marketing success of these products, no objective evidence has been produced regarding the ability of energy drinks to improve athletic performance. In fact, stories of physical detriment from the use of these supplements have begun to emerge.

One such incident impacted the life of Drake Williams, a high school senior basketball player, and was reported by Tanya Arja for Fox News Tampa. It was the first day of practice and the team was performing drills when he collapsed, a victim of sudden cardiac arrest. Fortunately, a defibrillator was immediately available and his heart was shocked back into normal rhythm.

While no direct correlation could be established, his doctors believe that the fact that he drank two energy drinks in the 24 hours prior to the incident played a role.

Energy drinks, like other nutritional supplements, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Soft drinks are considered food and limited to no more than 71 mg of caffeine per 12 ounces, while energy drinks can contain between 75 mg and 400 mg per serving.

Studies show that energy drinks are regularly consumed by 30 percent to 50 percent of children, adolescents and young adults. Some common effects of high doses of caffeine include irritability, restlessness, increased blood pressure and heart rate, headaches and tremors. Ironically, many of these effects may be detrimental to athletic performance rather than enhancing.

During any athletic endeavor, heart rate and blood pressure typically soar. The addition of highly caffeinated supplements such as energy drinks can create a deadly combination.

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