Jury Still Out on Whether Energy Drinks Help Athletes

Either way, don't mistake them for sports drinks
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2010 2:31 PM CST
Don't mistake any of these for sports drinks.   (Flickr)

(Newser) – Energy drinks have certainly been effective at marketing themselves to athletes, especially young ones—a recent survey showed that 32% of high-school athletes drink them—but do they actually improve performance? They jury’s out, but it doesn’t look good, experts tell the New York Times. “There’s good evidence that caffeine is ergogenic,” says one pediatrician, but the amounts of caffeine needed to boost performance vary wildly, and the effects decrease the more often it’s used. (Another points out that energy drinks are not interchangeable with sports drinks such as Gatorade, which have far less sugar and usually no caffeine.)

In one recent study of collegiate runners, Red Bull did nothing to affect their run-to-exhaustion times. At the same time, caffeine’s diuretic properties will inevitably speed up dehydration, “which is certainly not going to improve anyone’s performance,” one cardiologist observes. Another study showed that caffeinated young adults had faster reaction times, but were less accurate than their un-caffeinated peers. Overall, the cardiologist says, “There is still far too little science about the effects of energy drinks on anyone, at any age.”

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