Energy Drinks and Endurance Athletes
Energy drinks have become very popular as of late. These products typically contain caffeine and include Red Bull, Monster, Full Throttle and many others. In this article I will review the science behind “energy drink’ technology.
It is currently thought and the science seems to support that these drinks are safe with no harmful , adverse effects. In fact it appears that these drinks may even help stimulate weight loss by increasing Resting Energy Expenditure. One study in 2007 tested Red Bulls effect on strength. Surprisingly the testers found that ingestion of Red bull “significantly increases upper body muscle endurance even with the trivial amount of caffeine it contains.” Most of what the current research supports are the energy drinks ability to “increase exercise intensity at moderate intensity levels, combat fatigue and increase alertness.” So the primary benefit of a caffeine drink appears to be more beneficial to endurance athletes compared to exercise that is mostly anaerobic in nature.
Coffee typically has between 65 and 200 mg caffeine depending on serving size. For example 16 ounces of drip coffee may have 175 mg while 16 ounces of Starbucks has 330mg. By comparison Red Bull has 80 mg in 8 ounces, Monster 80 mg in 8 ounces, Rockstar 80 mg in 8 ounces and Javafit Energy Extreme has a whopping 225 mg of caffeine in just 6 ounces. It is recommended that the upper limit for caffeine in a non-caffeine sensitive individual should be no more than 6 mg per kg body weight (1 kg=2.2 lbs).
Caffeine appears to be a well researched supplement that can positively affect performance on endurance athletes. Taken in moderation
(6mg per kg body weight) it does not appear to have an negative adverse effects. Other supplements that benefit endurance athletes include replacing carbohydrates. Glycogen stores last 60-90 minutes in an exercising athlete. By replacing carbohydrates an athlete can prolong exercise. Athletes should replace lost fluids. 4-12 fluid ounces of a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink every 15 minutes during exercise will help an athlete avoid dehydration and cramping as well as fatigue. Recent research also suggests that adding a small amount of protein to a carbohydrate restores greater levels of muscle glycogen, increases performance, and prevents some muscle damage that will occur during endurance exercise.
The number of supplements available to endurance athletes continues to grow even though it is lacking in any formal research or documentation. Many athletes are quick to latch onto the “newest and latest’ form of product or supplement that promises to enhance their performance. Many of these rely on testimonials from athletes that were given free product. The above “practical application’ section is an attempt to give you a science based approach to maximizing their performance during an endurance event with proven, researched applications. Until an athlete has maximized their performance utilizing the above recommendations it is unlikely that they will receive any benefit from other less researched performance enhancers.
Written by Dr. Victor Runco