In the last 15 years, a growing number of professional athletes have tried to remain competitive in their sport through the use of sports supplements and energy drinks. Unfortunately, this has trickled down to our youth.

A national study done by the Kellogg’s Group in 2012 showed that 40% of all kids skipped breakfast. Of those, 43% said they skipped breakfast because they did not have time in the morning, and 29% said they were not hungry. Other studies evidenced that those who skipped breakfast consumed 40% more sweets, 55% more soft drinks, 45% fewer vegetables and 30% less fruit during the day. Often they look to sports supplements and energy drinks because they are not fueling their bodies with real food.

Energy drinks are beverages that contain caffeine and a combination of other ingredients designed to boost energy. They were first introduced in Europe/Asia in 1960, and then hit the US market in 1997. It is now a $10 billion a year industry, and 30-50% of its consumers are children and adolescents. Energy drinks may contain up to 1200mg of caffeine per serving and other ingredients that also contain caffeine. Because the FDA does not regulate energy drinks, the manufacturer does not have to disclose the amount of caffeine in every ingredient, and most companies have learned to hide the actual amounts of caffeine in their “proprietary blend.”  Most energy drinks also contain between 40-80 grams of sugar.  Another ingredient added to energy drinks is vitamin B, which can cause nerve damage when habitually consumed, and most energy drinks contain 2000-8000% of the recommended daily amount.

In 2013 there were 20,783 visits to emergency rooms nationwide due to anxiety, headaches, irregular heartbeats, heart attacks and dehydration resulting from energy drink consumption.

As for enhancing sports performance, caffeine at low doses (3-6 mg/kg/bw) is beneficial. All the other ingredients have been shown to have little to no effect on improving performance.

Sports Supplements: Our kids look up to sports heroes and seek to emulate them. Unfortunately, many have been suspected of taking sports supplements and some banned substances.  The market is flooded with supplements promoting that their product will put on 20 pounds of extra muscle. Again the problem with most of the top selling products on the market is that they are not regulated by the FDA, because they are not recognized as a food, so the ingredients in most of the muscle gainers and weight loss supplements are very questionable. With much of the same outcomes as our energy drinks, we must question their safety and ask ourselves, “Is this really worth it?”

In conclusion, energy drinks are a quick fix that can give you instant energy, but which is followed by a severe crash, and sports supplements should be intended to supplement what you are not getting in your diet, not to replace a healthy meal. Very little evidence exists that either improve athletic performance.

Michael K Butler is co owner of Kinetix Health and Performance Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 200.1719 or [email protected].

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