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Energy and Sports Drinks - Topic Overview

What are energy and sports drinks?

If you listen to the advertising, you might think energy and sports drinks do it all. More energy. Improved performance. Better concentration.

But do they? And what's the difference between energy drinks and sports drinks?

Energy drinks

People use energy drinks because these drinks claim to improve energy, help with weight loss, increase endurance, and improve concentration. The main ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine. They also may contain extract from the guarana plant (which is similar to caffeine), the amino acid taurine, carbohydrate in the form of sugar, and vitamins.

Examples of energy drinks include Red Bull, Rockstar, and Java Monster.

Sports drinks

People use sports drinks to replace water (rehydrate) and electrolytes lost through sweating after activity. Electrolytes are minerals, such as potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium, that keep the body's balance of fluids at the proper level. You may lose electrolytes when you sweat.

Sports drinks can also restore carbohydrate that the body uses during activity.

Sports drinks often contain carbohydrate in the form of sugar, as well as electrolytes and minerals and sometimes protein, vitamins, or caffeine. They come in different flavors.

Examples of sports drinks include Gatorade, Powerade, and Accelerade.

Are energy drinks safe for children and teens?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teensnot use energy drinks.1 The best way for children and teens to improve energy is through a balanced diet. Getting enough sleep also can help keep energy levels up.

Why should children and teens avoid energy drinks? One reason is that the main ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine. It can cause problems in children and teens, including:

Energy drinks may make existing problems worse in children and teens. For example, energy drinks:

Concerns about energy drinks

  • Too much caffeine. Energy drinks contain caffeine and other ingredients. The label may not say how much caffeine is in the other ingredients, so it can be hard to know how much caffeine is in the drink. A single energy drink can contain as much as 500 mg of caffeine. You would have to drink 14 cans of cola to get the same amount of caffeine.1
  • Other ingredients. Energy drinks may contain other ingredients, such as kola nut or guarana. There has been little research on how these ingredients may affect the body.
  • Limited regulation. Energy drinks may be classified as dietary supplements, which are not as strictly regulated as foods. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the amount of caffeine in sodas, but not in energy drinks.
  • Sugar. Energy drinks usually contain sugars, which add to the calories. This could lead to weight gain. The sugars can also lead to dental problems.
  • Withdrawal. When your body gets used to a lot of caffeine and then you stop using it, you can get symptoms including headaches, feeling tired, having trouble concentrating, and feeling grumpy.
  • Sleep. The caffeine in energy drinks may make it harder to sleep. Some people may feel they need less sleep, due to the stimulation they get from the caffeine. This can lead to sleep deprivation.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 22, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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