Most teens who drink a lot of energy and sports drinks do not spend their time exercising their minds and bodies. They are more likely to be engaging in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and playing video games for hours, according to a new study.
The researchers asked about 2,800 Minneapolis-St. Paul area teens in middle and high school how often they drank sport or energy drinks. They also surveyed them on their other activities and habits.
Nearly 40 percent of the teens indicated that they consume at least one sports drink a week. Approximately 15 percent said they consume at least one energy drink per week.
The teenagers who drank energy and/or sports drinks at least once each week spend more time playing video games, drink more sugar-sweetened beverages and are more likely to have tried cigarettes than those who consumed sports and energy drinks less often. Some findings were:
- Boys who imbibe energy drinks at least weekly spent four more hours playing video games each week than their peers who drank less energy drinks.
- Twenty percent of the adolescents who frequently consumed energy drinks had smoked cigarettes; whereas, only 8 percent of those who did not drink the beverages that often had tried smoking.
- Boys who have sports drinks at least weekly watch at least one hour of television more each week than those who consume sports beverages less than once a week.
The research, published in the May/June issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, reflects one point in time, and it did not determine whether the unhealthy behaviors preceded the sports and energy drink consumption, or the reverse. It does, however, show a clustering of problem behaviors among teens and their continued use of sports and energy drinks.
Sports and Energy Drinks
A mix of carbohydrates and water, sports drinks were originally promoted as a fuel and hydration choice for those exercising. They have been shown to boost endurance for those exercising for greater than 60 minutes more so than drinking water. However, most sports drinks offer a blend of carbohydrate sources, such as the sucrose, glucose and fructose, all of which are sugars. The idea is that offering an intestinal tract different sugars would improve carbohydrate absorption and muscle fuel for exercise or sports performance. Sports drinks also have added electrolytes to replace electrolytes lost in sweat.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says sports drinks are not needed for most young athletes and the extra sugar content contributed to weight gain and tooth decay. They do say some sports drink consumption may be suitable for adolescents exercising vigorously for prolonged time periods, but not for most teens. Additionally, water is still considered the best option for hydration following physical activity.
The study showed that teens who consumed more sports drinks did report higher levels of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week, and a higher percentage of sports participation. But, it is not clear if they met the threshold recommended by the AAP.
Energy drinks (e.g., Red Bull, Rock Star and Monster) contain large doses of caffeine and stimulants like guarana and ginseng. Caffeine levels in energy drinks vary widely from 75 milligrams to over 200 milligrams in each serving. By comparison, Coke has 34 milligrams and Mountain Dew has 55 milligrams.
Because of the high caffeine levels, the AAP does not recommend energy drinks for teens. Their stimulants boost the heart rate and blood pressure, can be dehydrating, and prevent sleep. The health effects are worse for teens because they still have developing nervous and cardiovascular systems.
By Dyanne Weiss