Are energy drinks helpful for sports?

Samantha Heller, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

Energy drinks can give you a small boost when you’re playing sports, but they’re not the best choice for most athletes. Watch this video to learn what drinks registered dietitian Samantha Heller recommends you down before you pick up a ball.

According to a BMJ article, while the public is being bombarded with messages that they should drink fluids during exercise, the research evidence is lacking that sports drinks, over plain water, are necessary to stay hydrated. 

Also, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Sports Nutrition manual, states individuals exercising less than 45 minutes, don’t need to drink sports drinks in place of water during their workout.

The average person does not need a sports drink to stay hydrated under normal circumstances. Drinking water and consuming a well-balanced diet should be adequate. Sports drinks can play a role in aiding hydration for athletes and the general population in extreme settings such as training in hot weather and for long periods of time.

Sports drinks can fuel the active muscles of endurance athletes. The carbohydrates in sports drinks provide fuel in the form of added sugars. But with over 68 percent of Americans currently overweight, our diet is clearly adequate in calories to fuel a 45-minute brisk walk daily. We don’t need a sweetened beverage to help us make it around the block.
Male Tennis Coach & Student
Molly Morgan
Nutrition & Dietetics
No, energy drinks are not helpful. What is most concerning about energy drinks is the mix of other vitamins, minerals or herbs that are added to them. The contents of the drinks is not regulated or tested so it is difficult to know exactly what you are getting in them. Most importantly, for children under 19 years old, many energy drinks actually have a warning, stating something like: not intended for use by pregnant women or children. If athletes are looking for a book of energy, my tips: show up well-hydrated and if you must have something look for a gu, gel, or sports bean type product that are portioned backed better for athletes and designed to help performance.
No. These drinks contain caffeine (80 - 300mg) and other stimulants which are not necessary and may be harmful to children and teens. Some side effects that have been reported include tremors, insomnia, nervousness, headache, and tachycardia (rapid heart beat). Experts agree that these stimulants are potentially harmful to youth athletes and recommend instead, drinking water or a sports rehydration beverage (sports drink).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.