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:
We’ve had a streak of hot weather here in Boston, and most endurance athletes aren’t use to it yet. Be sure to not only drink enough fluids during exercise but also add a little sodium to your pre-exercise stint in the heat if you plan to be outside for a while. The sodium helps retain the fluids in your body (as oposed to have them go in one end and out the other) and can help delay dehydration and enhance your endurance. While on a daily basis you want to monitor your sodium intake, a little extra before hot weather exercise can be a wise choice.
Some possible choices are chicken noodle soup (or any canned brothy soup), V-8 juice, salted pretzels, pickles, ham and cheese sandwich with mustard – or any salted/salty food, before you go. This will be a change in eating patterns for health-conscious endurance athletes who cook their oatmeal without salt, rarely eat canned or processed foods, and have no salt shaker on the table.
You might lose 800 to 1,000 mg sodium per pound of sweat. (Weigh yourself pre and post exercise to figure our how many pounds of sweat you lose in an hour.) While you need not get obsessed about replacing sodium milligram for milligram, reading food labels can give you a frame of reference regarding how much you replace via foods. For example--
A quart of Gatorade offers 440 mg sodium
A can of chicken noodle soup offers 2,350 mg
Eight ounces of rrange juice has only 5 mg
Generally, if you crave salt, you should eat salt. The chapter on Repalcing Sweat Losses in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook offers more information. (See www.nancyclarkrd.com)