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Giving Energy Drinks a Red Card

With flashy names like Full Throttle, Rockstar, Red Bull, AMP and Monster, the energy drink industry continues to entice consumers of all ages. The claims of increased mental focus and physical performance are attractive. Who wouldn’t want the “burst of energy” that these and other energy drinks advertise? Yet, energy drinks are not designed for youth and may impair their sports performance. Being knowledgeable about fluid options will assist soccer athletes in obtaining adequate hydration on and off the field.


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Athletes’ bodies build up heat as they dribble and pass the soccer ball up and down the field. Sweat is produced by the increased body temperature. As sweat evaporates from the skin, the body cools. This cooling system works best when an athlete is sufficiently hydrated. A lack of fluid can affect both the endurance and technical skills of soccer athletes.

During exercise, the two best choices for fluid replacement are water and sports drinks. For matches lasting longer than one hour, sports drinks containing 4-8 percent carbohydrate can provide energy, sodium and potassium without discomfort. In contrast, energy drinks contain 11-18 percent carbohydrate. With a higher carbohydrate content, energy drinks require a longer absorption time and may cause nausea, diarrhea and bloating. In addition, their high caffeine content produces a diuretic effect, increasing the risk of dehydration. The caffeine content of energy drinks may also cause negative side effects among children, including decreased concentration, increased heart rate and insomnia. Drinking water or sports drinks during training and matches is recommended for maintaining optimal performance and avoiding dehydration.

After practice or a match, soccer athletes can expand their beverage choices to include low-fat chocolate milk, 100-percent fruit juices and fruit with high water content (e.g., grapes, watermelon and oranges) and broth-based soups. Energy drinks are also not advised after exercise due to their high caffeine content. Making time for adequate sleep is a safer alternative to caffeine for young athletes. The assortment of herbal supplements added to energy drinks also poses a risk to youth. These supplements are unregulated and untested on children.

Drinking water, 100-percent fruit juices or low-fat milk, along with eating a balanced diet and obtaining adequate sleep, can help athletes replenish fluid and energy stores while also providing essential vitamins and minerals.

Soccer is a game of endurance. Maintaining energy and concentration for peak performance requires consistent replenishing of fluid before, during and after a practice or match. Healthy hydration options include water, sports drinks, low-fat milk and 100-percent fruit juices, along with high-water-content fruits.

Giving energy drinks a red card is a wise choice for the health, safety and athletic performance of young soccer athletes.

Amy Reuter’s column is presented by the Washington Interscholastic Nutrition Forum (WINForum). Please visit us at www.WINForum.org.

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