What about energy drinks…??? That’s the Big Question I get asked by high school kids, coaches, parents and other active, under-thirty year olds. They want to know if guzzling drinks such as Red Bull and Full Throttle are OK for energy boosters.
My response to being asked “What about energy drinks?” is to reply, “Why are you lagging on energy? Did you consume an adequate sports diet earlier in the day?” Undoubtedly not.
Generally, the desire for an energy drink is the symptom of a bigger nutritional problem: skipping breakfast, barely eating lunch and now at 3:00 p.m. needing help to get through the afternoon, including a workout.
You’re naïve to think that a can of caffeinated sugar-syrup will optimize performance. While it may stimulate you enough to make the workout seem easier, it will not replace a health-promoting, energy enhancing foundation of wholesome meals and pre-exercise snacks. No energy drink will compensate for poor nutrition.
Energy drinks should really be called “stimulant drinks.” They are the equivalent of a small cup of coffee (energy drinks typically contain between 80 to 140 mg of caffeine) with two heaping tablespoons of sugar (or 7 packets of sugar @ 110 calories). That’s enough to get anyone wired!
Many athletes also question if energy drinks are bad for their health. While I have less concern about the occasional energy drink, I am concerned about over-consumption, especially in small children. I read a medical report about a teenage basketball player who drank four cans of an energy drink and died, likely due to heart problems. The dose is the poison.
Fuel wisely, play well.
For information on how to choose a high energy sports diet:
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This intensive workshop by Nancy Clark MS, RD CSSD and exercise physiologist William Evans PhD is designed to help sports dietitians, coaches, athletic trainers, exercise physiologists, sports medicine professionals and serious athletes find answers to their questions about--
-eating for health, enhanced performance and longevity
-balancing carbs, protein and sports supplements
-managing weight and eating disorders.
Exercise physiology, exercise and aging, sports nutrition, protein, ergogenic aids, creatine, weight control, counseling tips for eating disordered athletes, case studies and hands-on information.
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More often than not, I talk with novice marathoners who assume they will lose weight once they start training for a marathon. After all, if they are running for miles and miles, how could they not lose weight???
Well, guess again, according to a study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's Annual Meeting. In a survey of 64 participants in a three-month marathon-training program, only 11% of the runners lost weight and 11% actually gained weight. (The rest remained at a stable weight.) Of the 7 who gained weight, 6 were women. They got hungrier and ate more!
Among the entire group of runners, three-quarters of the women reported eating more while training, as compared to only half of the men. It seems that Nature works hard to defend women from losing weight! After all, in terms of evolution, a woman’s job is to be fertile.
Hence, if you are a woman who decides to run a marathon, be sure the primary goal of your training is to improve your endurance, not to lose weight. If you want to do both, you have to carefully manage your appetite. All too often, marathoners can convince themselves they deserve to eat several extra cookies because they just ran a few miles…
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