I was working out yesterday, minding my own business, when - out of the corner of my eye - I saw it. A boldly coloured blue and silver can in the fitness area....could it be? Nahhhh. But there it was.....a Red Bull energy drink can sitting there ...in plane sight. I couldn't let this photo opportunity pass me by, I had to stop and take a picture of it. Never in my fitness career had I actually seen an energy drink permeate the heart-healthy membranes of a fitness center before. In reality, I really just had to open my eyes...they are everywhere. What's more disheartening is seeing these cans for sale in the fitness and health centres.
As it turns out, there is confusion over the differences between an energy drink (ED), like Red Bull, and a hydration drink (HD), like Gatorade. I can understand this confusion when I see coaches handing a Red Bull to their players to increase their energy levels. The link to sport and EDs can be seen everywhere now adays. What used to be sponsored by Players Filtered, is now sponsored by Red Bull or Monster...mmmm...interesting. Once we align EDs with sport, it is easier to make it an acceptable choice of athletes (no matter how young).
The truth is, no one knows the effects of mixing naturally occurring substances (ginko-biloba, taurine, ginseng, and the like) with caffeine (or with each other). Although the caffeine is high in these drinks, it can be comparable to a few cups of coffee so it really isn't about the caffeine. Many European countries have banned EDs due to the lack of evidence they are safe (those smart Europeans). Meanwhile, kids are walking around with cans of the stuff drinking them like rockstars.
There has been a noted correlation (link) to EDs and death in sport. There are questions that need to be answered before we start downing these drinks before the big game. There is a considerable difference between energy drinks and hydration drinks (HDs). HDs have added electrolytes to their fluid to help transport the water over the membrane of your cell. By drinking something with electrolyte in it, you are able to hydrate more efficiently. However, you can also get the same effect by adding a pinch of salt to your orange juice (cool, eh?). The good news is that HDs are not harmful to you in any way. If you are looking to reduce your sugar, your chemicals, and your spending.. you may want to consider making your own at home.
I know I have posted on this subject already but the picture motivated me to reiterate the importance of proper hydration before, during, and after exercise through water or HDs. By drinking an ED before, during, or after exercise you really are taking your life in your hands (especially if you have a history of cardiac issues). This is a great opportunity to apply critical thinking. If there aren't any studies showing that consuming a mix of naturally occuring stimulants (coupled with caffeine) is safe....why risk it?
That's all I'm sayin'.