Sports and Energy Drinks
Children should not consume energy drinks. Adolescents should be advised to limit caffeine intake to 100 mg. per day and adults to 500 mg. a day.5 Because the millions of persons consuming energy drinks are likely to be unaware of the amount or risks of the caffeine they are ingesting, caffeine overdoses have caused serious illness and rare deaths––probably from heart irregularities. Assuming that ingestion over a brief time of 3 to 10 gm of caffeine might be lethal, then it would probably take 12 or more energy drinks to reach a lethal dose in a healthy adult. But in the presence of liver disease or other drugs, a fatal dose could be lower.6
Mixing energy drinks and alcohol is especially dangerous because caffeine offsets the sedating effects of alcohol, and drinkers may not realize that they are intoxicated, keep on drinking, and drink too much. A group of students who consumed both energy drinks and alcohol approximately doubled their risk of experiencing or committing sexual assault, riding with an intoxicated driver, having an alcohol-related motor vehicle crash, or requiring medical treatment.7 8
The International Olympic Committee published a statement in 2015 that it is “inappropriate and unacceptable to encourage dietary supplements for performance enhancement with youth athletes.” However, studies have found use by between 22% and 71% of child and adolescent athletes. Although there is little evidence that sports-nutrition supplements are effective, they are marketed with promises of improved athletic performance, and are a growing market, estimated at $6.7 billon of annual sales in the U.S. in 2016.9
1 Sepkowitz KA. Energy Drinks and Caffeine-Related Adverse Effects. JAMA. 2013;309(3):243-244. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.173526.
2 Howland J, Rohsenow DJ. Risks of Energy Drinks Mixed With Alcohol. JAMA. 2013;309(3):245-246. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.187978.
3 Svatikova A, Covassin N, Somers KR, Somers KV, Soucek F, Kara T, Bukartyk J. A Randomized Trial of Cardiovascular Responses to Energy Drink Consumption in Healthy Adults. JAMA. 2015;314(19):2079-2082. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.13744.
4 Torpy JM, Livingston EH. Energy Drinks. JAMA. 2013;309(3):297. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.170614.
5 Torpy JM, Livingston EH. Energy Drinks. JAMA. 2013;309(3):297. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.170614.
6 Sepkowitz KA. Energy Drinks and Caffeine-Related Adverse Effects. JAMA. 2013;309(3):243-244. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.173526.
7 Howland J, Rohsenow DJ. Risks of Energy Drinks Mixed With Alcohol. JAMA. 2013;309(3):245-246. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.187978.
8 O’Brien MC, McCoy TP, Rhodes SD, Wagoner A, Wolfson M. Caffeinated cocktails: energy drink consumption, high-risk drinking, and alcohol-related consequences among college students. Acad Emerg Med. 2008;15(5):453-460.
9 Bachman R. Teen Sports Diet Debate. Wall St. Journal. January 12, 2016.