Energy drinks don't give you wings

Energy drinks don't give you wings

Associated with design by industrialists in sports activities, with a lot of powerful marketing strategies, energy drinks are unanimous against them in the ranks of nutritionists and physicians specializing in sport. What is it really?

A misleading positioning

Cans bearing the effigy of great racers, sponsorship in extreme sports, marketing campaigns meticulously built around the themes of our time, such as surpassing oneself and one's limits, a strong presence in nightclubs and in the evenings, an increasingly visible involvement in e-sport… energy drinks clearly target athletes and young people. But the ingredients which compose them, most of the time in great concentration, are strongly discouraged by the medical world, in particular within the framework of a sporting or intellectual activity.

Sport and energy drinks: a perfect match

The producers of energy drinks must be recognized for the importance of their involvement in the world of sport. Many disciplines, especially in extreme sports (skiing, snowboarding, jumping, etc.) and in motor sports, owe a lot to these angel sponsors. As we saw during the last Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, these practices meet an increasingly enthusiastic public, who forsake more traditional routes (slalom, cross-country skiing, etc.) for other thrills ( freestyle, snowboard, etc.). The great strength of the industrialists in the sector is to have known how to target young people who are difficult to reach today through traditional channels. The same can be said with e-sport, which is particularly popular with companies in the sector, which thus have access to a population that has completely turned away from television. The main problem with this strong presence in the sports field and among young people is that energy drinks, whatever a well-conducted marketing may say, are absolutely not suitable for the practice of sport and that their consumption is not indicated, even in a context of leisure or relaxation. Certainly, caffeine, present in high concentration in energy drinks, especially through Guarana, is known to, in high doses, reduce fatigue of the central nervous system and temporarily increase neuromuscular performance. It even appeared on WADA's banned list until 2008. However, to be truly effective, it should be taken in such large doses that its harmful side effects, also well known, would immediately cancel out its positive effects. Especially when caffeine, as in energy drinks, is combined with other concentrated substances, like sugar or taurine. So what are these risks?

Doping and doping conduct

Energy drinks do not contain any products on the WADA Prohibited List. The risk of abnormal doping control is therefore zero, except in the event of voluntary or involuntary contamination of the batches. However, artificially seek a way to increase their performance, for an athlete, or support to get through a difficult time (revisions of an important exam, trying pace of work, prolonging a state of wakefulness in the evening, etc. ), is equivalent to entering the vicious circle of doping behaviors. Energy drinks convey as a message the need for an individual to adopt the hyper active lifestyle and surpassing oneself as cardinal values. They induce the desire for a more stimulating life, of which they alone would be the key. Woe to those who would not be "adapted". Such a bias is necessarily the source of stress, anxiety, maladjustment and, ultimately, depressive disorders. The example of Kevin Mayer, recently crowned heptathlon world champion, is edifying in this sense. For a long time, this immense athlete thought that surpassing oneself and his limits, through a formidable intensive training based on an enormous volume, was the only access route to success. He recently expressed his surprise when he went to see Ashton Eaton train, the gold standard in his discipline and arguably one of the greatest athletes of all time. This absolutely did not base its preparation on volume and extreme exercises, but on a constant search for the perfect balance between intensive training, diet, specific and targeted development of its capacities and the rest phase. This is the difference between effectiveness and efficiency: effectiveness seeks the immediate result, whatever the cost, efficiency adds the factor of time and sustainability. Success and performance therefore do not necessarily go through surpassing oneself, but through the optimization of one's intrinsic capacities and the perfect knowledge of one's limits while respecting one's body. Quite the opposite of doping behavior.


The risks

The dehydration

The most important thing for an athlete is to stay hydrated, before, during and after exercise. Gold, energy drinks contain powerful diuretics, starting with the caffeine itself. These substances promote the elimination of water through the urine, which is exactly the opposite of what an active athlete should be looking for! The risks of dehydration are therefore significant. And dehydration is one of the main causes of injury since it increases fatigue and the body's fatigability during exertion.

In addition, caffeine promotes urinary elimination of calcium, magnesium, chlorine and sodium. All these minerals are essential for good hydration and the electrolyte balance necessary for any efficient effort. So not only Energy drinks interfere with the recovery process, but the mineral leaks they induce increase the risk of musculotendinous or cardiovascular injuries. It is also important to get out of the ambiguity maintained by professionals in the sector and do not confuse energy drink and energy drink, such as PowerAde or Gatorade, excellent rehydration products thanks to their balanced composition in water, mineral salts and sugar (in reasonable quantities unlike energy drinks which contain up to 5 times more).

Cardiovascular risks

One can of energy drink contains around 80mg of caffeine. With two cans, we immediately enter the dose of perception of side effects (between 100 and 160 mg / day) and we are dangerously approaching the upper limit of consumption allowed (200 mg / day). The presence in such a high concentration of stimulants thus necessarily results in cardiovascular side effects which can range from tachycardia to peripheral vasoconstriction via hypertension. Sudden death cannot be ruled out in subjects with cardiac weaknesses. In addition, vitamin B or taurine, present in a concentrated manner at doses close to the permitted limits - especially as part of a sustained effort which, through the phenomenon of dehydration (sweating), strengthens the concentration in the blood -, these risks further increase.

Side effects that go against the desired improvements

Paradoxically, the stimulating effect of energy drinks most of the time goes against the improvements sought during their intake. Excessively intense excitement indeed generates irritability, distraction and stress at the expense of sports performance. It is also deplorable, with the risks of loss of concentration caused by both excitement and dehydration, that energy drinks are associated with disciplines that require the most vigilance, such as motocross, mountain biking, BMX, Formula 1 or extreme sports. Beyond the purely sporting framework, these effects also go against what the marketing of energy drinks puts them forward. In the context of work, for the famous little "boost", or in that of studies, to revise your exams, the use of these drinks will most of the time have the opposite effects to those sought. We do not work better and we do not retain anything when we are irritable, nervous, tired.