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Caffeine overload in athletic sports or “energy” drinks | Healing Talks
Published On: Tue, Dec 6th, 2011

Caffeine overload in athletic sports or “energy” drinks

Caffeine overload in athletic sports or energy drinks

Dangerous caffeine


in athletic sports

or “energy” drinks

Julian Georgiou, Healingtalks Contributing Writer

(Healingtalks) When life couldn’t get any faster perhaps all that’s missing is a triple dose of caffeine?

Today’s best source of caffeine is a growing selection of energy drinks. The sale of these drinks has grown to become an 8 billion dollar industry, according to USA Today reports,  because so many young athletes are using these as fluid replacement drinks (such as Gatorade) – and with potentially lethal doses of caffeine.

What does caffeine actually do?

Caffeine initiates uncontrolled neuron firing in your brain.

This excess neuron activity triggers your pituitary gland to secrete a hormone that tells your adrenal glands to produce adrenalin. Adrenalin is what gives athletes that winning burst of energy, though historically adrenalin is the source of our “fight-or-flight” or danger avoiding response (Cherniske, 2008). Professional alike are taking to these drinks to enhance both their mental and physical states.

Caffeine as an addictive drug

Abstinence from any physical addiction causes withdrawal symptoms.

In the case of caffeine symptoms experienced from 12-51 hours include as headache, fatigue, decreased energy, decreased alertness, drowsiness, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and fuzzy headed (Kovacs, Caffeine). This the feeling Cherniske refers to as the ‘Caffeine Blues’. Traditionally the source of caffeine came from a cup of coffee at around 100mg per 8oz and where energy drinks such as NOS, Spike Shooter and Wired X 344 contain between 260mg to 244mg of caffeine per 16oz – not to mention the high sugar content and other questionable ingredients.

dangers of caffeine exposed

Dangers of caffeine exposed

An overdose of caffeine causes anxiety, nervousness, sleep problems, elevated blood pressure, and heart palpitations (Fryhofer, 2011). Cherniske calls your body’s constant state of alert “caffeinism,” which is characterized by fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, sleep disturbance, irritability and depression. The list goes on of dangerous consequences of caffeine intoxication – such as seizures, mania, stroke, liver damage, kidney and respiratory problems, seizures, and agitation, as well as heart rhythm disturbances, heart failure, high blood pressure, and rhabdomyolysis (Fryhofer, 2011).

This is essentially why these drinks “should not be consumed before, during or after physical activity as they can raise the risk of dehydration and increase the chance of potentially fatal heat illnesses’ (Norwood, 2011).

mix caffeine and alcohol

Mixing caffeine and alcohol

Another dangerous practice is the mixing of caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol is a sedative. Caffeine, on the other end of the spectrum of psychoactive drugs, is a stimulant. As caffeine can reduce the sedative effects of alcohol, this may allow someone to drink for longer periods of time (Greenemier, 2010). This common practice among young adults is a recipe for alcohol poisoning and severe dehydration.

Four Loko, an drink with up to 6-12% alcohol along with a high amount of caffeine and has been known to make people pass out. It can be lethal.

Final thoughts

The FDA limit for caffeine in cola drinks is set at two hundredths of a per cent (0.02%), a max of 71 mg per 12 ounce serving. Scientists and many parents wonder why this doesn’t apply to energy drinks (Fryhofer, 2011). Red Bull was the first sports energy drink that hit the U.S. market in 1997 (Norwood, 2011) – creating the potential for increased health risks.


Sandra A. Fryhofer, MD, 03/24/11, Caffeinated Energy: Drinks With Dangers

Larry Greenemeier  11/09/10 Why Are Caffeinated Alcoholic Energy Drinks Dangerous?

Robyn Norwood, 12/02/11, Young athletes and energy drinks: A bad mix?

Dani Veracity, 10/11/05, The hidden dangers of caffeine: How coffee causes exhaustion, fatigue and addiction

Betty Kovacs, Caffeine

About Four – Wikepedia article

Stephen Cherniske, 12/01/08, Caffeine Blues: Wake Up to the Hidden Dangers of America’s #1 Drug

Related Articles

Coffee whats the verdict is it good or bad for us

Coffee illusions What the magic brew does to your brain

What’s in a cup of coffee


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