If you walk into any gym, training center or vitamin shops, you’re likely to see energy drinks being marketed to athletes of all ages. In fact, energy drinks are available in almost every flavor, almost everywhere: the lunchroom, the school cafeteria, the deli, vending machines and almost every convenience store. They’re so widely available and make tempting promises, but can they benefit your performance as a swimmer? We’ll take a look at the ingredients and the reasons why you may feel you need an energy boost in the first place.
Do you need an energy drink?
Do you want to drink an energy drink because you enjoy the taste or is it because you feel you need an energy boost? Most energy drinks promise anti-fatigue and stimulation benefits and most fulfill those promises with their primary ingredient, caffeine. If you’re feeling a bit drained and find yourself reaching for an energy drink, wondering whether it will give you a boost and help your performance we have a better question for you.
Why are you tired in the first place? The answer is quite simple. It is likely because your body has not recovered effectively, which could mean either insufficient sleep or that it hasn’t gotten all of the nutrients it needed to recover effectively. We’ll share some suggestions to help you with this at the end of this post.
Your training sessions may be more demanding than usual, you might be missing something in your nutrition plan, or getting too much of something (infamous sugar crash?), extra stress may be affecting your sleep quality, all of which can affect your recovery and leave you feeling tired.
You may want to examine your habits and try to uncover the reason you’re tired. If you find yourself relying on energy drinks without trying to solve the problem, you’ll only be masking the source of your fatigue. The bottom line is that an energy drink is not going to help you recover, and that won’t benefit your body or your performance in the long run.
What’s inside energy drinks? The good and the bad.
On the positive side, energy drinks can help delay fatigue. Most energy drinks contain caffeine to give you an extra energy boost. Caffeine has been used as an ergogenic, or stamina-enhancing, aide for years and consistent benefits have been found in endurance athletic events. Caffeine helps to delay fatigue by enhancing fat oxidation and maintaining carbohydrate stores. In two different studies conducted with athletes, caffeine was shown to increase focus, alertness, and increase time to exhaustion. However, neither study showed an increase in power for athletes.
The negative side of energy drinks, unfortunately, outweigh the good. Studies have shown that when swimmers experience excessive nervous system activity, they tend to perform poorly. Most swimmers are already in a nervous or excited state before a race, but those who consume an energy drink on top of that increase the chances of muscular tension, shallow breathing, nervousness, elevated heart rate, and headaches, all of which can lead to a poorer performance in the pool. These effects continue even after the race is over and can lead to compromised sleep quality, especially when consumed later in the day. In addition, caffeine is a diuretic, it encourages frequent urination, and energy drinks with a high sugar content can aggravate this dehydrating effect.
Some people who have stopped drinking energy drinks have reported withdrawal symptoms, which not only hinder performance but can be dangerous to your health. The World Health Organization recognizes caffeine withdrawal syndrome as an official diagnosis, with symptoms including headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, decreased motivation to work, flu-like symptoms and muscle stiffness.
Teen swimmers; take care
Any swimmer who is still developing physically and psychologically should exercise caution with energy drinks. More than 100 mg of caffeine per day in pre-teens and teens has been associated with agitation, anxiety, poor sleep, a rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, altered mental states, and in some extreme cases – seizures. None of which do anything to better your performance, or benefit your body.
Besides possibly containing banned substances that might show up in eligibility tests, some energy drinks contain ingredients that can be harmful to young developing athletes. For example, ingredients that are natural and may seem harmless like guarana, which is a natural caffeine, is on the NCAA banned substances list and can cause the same adverse symptoms as caffeine. So read the labels and be careful about what you’re drinking while you’re training.
Below we compiled a table showing the caffeine contents of drinks per serving size and the total caffeine per fluid ounce.
|Energy Drinks & Well Known Coffees||fl oz||Caffeine (mg)||mg/ fl oz|
|5 Hour Energy||2||200||100.0|
|Rockstar Energy Shot||2.5||200||80.0|
|Redline Energy Drink||8||250||31.2|
|Starbucks Coffee – Grande||16||330||20.6|
|Dunkin’ Donuts Brewed Coffee||14||210||15|
|Bang Energy Drink||16||300||18.8|
|Frava Caffeinated Juice||16||200||12.5|
|NOS Energy Drink||16||160||10.0|
Last accessed: 24 March 2017
Make a smart choice
The body’s best source of energy comes from glucose, which you get from ingesting the right foods. Your body needs energy, and the best way to get it is from natural glucose stores, which are replenished by eating a diet with the right amount of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Stimulants are not a satisfactory substitute for glucose, as they only give your body a false sense of energy and increase your chances of a caffeine or blood sugar crash mid-race, which is the last thing you want.
If you’re going to supplement your well-balanced, food-based diet with the occasional energy drink, make sure to do your research and make a good choice about which energy drink you choose. Often, swimmers confuse energy drinks with sports drinks and liquid supplements, and with marketing tactics it’s no wonder. Sports drinks contain small amounts of carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes and flavorings which are intended to replace the nutrients lost through sweat. Gatorade is one example of a popular sports drink many swimmers drink after a long work out.
If you’re looking for something simple to hydrate you effectively, water is still your best choice by far. If you’re looking to mix things up a bit, you may want to opt for milk or a natural fruit juice. Staying hydrated is critical for performance and is something that should be central to any nutritional plan. If you’re feeling tired or suspect something may be missing from your nutritional plan you might consider a nutritional shake, like the NutriBoost, which has 100% of the essential nutrients you need to maximize your recovery.
P2Life is family owned, performance-based, nutritional supplement company that was designed for swimmers, by swimmers, to protect health and promote performance. P2Life takes great care in ensuring that every batch of their performance line is tested to be free of banned and illegal substances. Even though P2Life products were the preferred choice for over 40% of the USA Men’s Olympic Swim team during the London Olympics, it is not just for Olympians. It is also the preferred choice for the top high school, collegiate and masters swimmers across the globe.
P2Life was founded by Tim Shead, a Masters Swimming Hall of Fame Inductee and 42x World Record Holder, and co-founded by Michael Shead, who was a national water polo player. Tim’s expertise in swimming and years of experience and knowledge working with nutritional products, combined with Michael’s love of innovation and technical background, has enabled the P2Life team to create a technologically savvy company that is dedicated to furthering athletic potential. P2Life has a strong e-commerce platform, which allows them to spend less time and funds on retail stores, and dedicate more time to the swimming community.
A Proven Track Record:
- Over 40% of the USA Men’s Olympic Swim Team were taking P2Life products during the London Olympics. The athletes brought back 12 medals, seven of which were gold.
- P2Life Masters Swimmers have over 700 World Records to their name.
Swim Training provided by P2 Life, a SwimSwam ad partner.