Are energy drinks in football bad? The average footballer covers about 10.2 to 14 km each game. Add to that playing twice a week for about nine months a year, and you have a rigorous schedule on your hands.
So footballers use any fair way of keeping themselves fit. Be it ice baths, modern training, or extensive diet plans, players do everything they can to get ahead. One such entity is an energy drink. As its name suggests, it provides players with instant energy to go about their game.
But are energy drinks healthy? And what is the role of energy drinks in football? When should they be used? Let us try to explore further!
What is the Role of Energy Drinks in Football
To understand the role of energy drinks in football, we must know what they include. There are a host of ingredients in energy drinks that are not researched enough to be used regularly. While other ingredients do have a beneficial impact on performance in moderate quantities.
The basic ingredients of an energy drink are caffeine, sugars (carbohydrates), electrolytes, and water. Let us look at them one by one.
One of the basic ingredients when you talk about energy drinks in football are sugars. Now carbohydrates are of two types, simple carbohydrates (sugars) and complex carbohydrates.
The thing with complex carbs is that they take a whole lot more time to be digested and become a source of energy for athletes. So, while they may be great for weight loss in the general setting, they may not be suited for football players just before the game when they need energy as quickly as possible.
Sugar as Carb intake
On the other hand, simple carbs are easy to digest and become a part of our muscles to be used during intense activity in no time. While this quick digestion may be bad for our body during weight loss as these sugars get converted to fat, when you have activity that can burn these sugars, you should consume it.
Since footballers use it just before games when they have to perform explosive movements for about 90 minutes, this ingestion of sugar is more than warranted.
The energy drinks in football and other sports also tend to contain caffeine. With this ingredient, caution needs to be exercised. We see caffeine in most of our daily life beverages like tea and coffee. It is a stimulant of the nervous system and also has antioxidant properties that help prevent cancer.
benefits of optimum consumption:
There is enough research to suggest that caffeine-containing energy drinks in football do carry their benefits. Research shows that these energy drinks help increase the jumping ability, the running distance, and other measures of athletic performance.
These metrics are indirect measures of performance on the pitch but do indicate an improvement in performance ultimately. Something like jump height can have a meaningful impact on a defender trying to win a header or a striker trying to head it in from the corner.
All these benefits make it a usual recommendation to use caffeine with carbohydrate-rich drinks used by footballers. Having said that, the dose and frequency of caffeine intake are crucial to be regulated. A similar study suggested the same improvements in athletic performance when caffeine is taken in a dose equivalent to 3 mg per kg.
Footballers play in all sorts of conditions, be it hot or cold. So a common occurrence is the profuse sweating seen during soccer games. Alongside water, some crucial salts and electrolytes are also lost with sweat. So footballers try to tackle this loss of electrolytes by drinking these energy drinks that contain these electrolytes.
One of the main electrolytes is sodium which is a key electrolyte for our body and found in the table salt we use in our food. Like with caffeine intake, there is research that suggests an improvement in performance during games by drinking energy drinks with electrolytes supplementation.
What are the potentially harmful ingredients in energy drinks?
Energy drinks often get bad press for the harmful ingredients in them. And some of it is justified. There are a few ingredients in commonly used energy drinks that can have detrimental effects. Some of them are
First of all, caffeine itself can have a harmful effect when taken in excess. It is known as a potential cause of increased heart rate and even arrhythmias or disrupted heartbeat rhythm when taken in excess.
Caffeine is also linked with insomnia which may be a huge deal for footballers that depend on adequate sleep for muscle repair. Tiredness the next day and stomach upset after caffeine use are other side effects commonly reported with the use of caffeine containing energy drinks in football .
So it is vital to only consume caffeine in moderate amounts and never binge drink any caffeine containing energy drink.
It is another common ingredient found in energy drinks in football. It is an amino acid and has the advantage of helping with neurological development and can regulate water and mineral levels in the body.
But when taken in excess it can lead to severely decreased blood pressure. And this is just one drawback we know. There is a lot more to be researched about this ingredient.
Ginseng and Guarana
Two other ingredients often seen in energy drinks in football are ginseng and guarana. These are relatively new and much is still unknown about these ingredients.
But they can lead to high blood pressure, palpitations and increased heart rate when taken in an uncontrolled quantity.
Like caffeine, sugars can be detrimental too when taken wrongly. With sugars the time when they are taken matters massively. Simple sugars taken without any activity is a recipe for weight gain. The body converts the excess sugar into fats that get stored in the body.
Also, many energy drinks use High Fructose Corn Syrup as an inexpensive alternative to sugar which is known to be detrimental for human health. It can precipitate liver damage with fat accumulation in liver cells and is linked with diabetes when taken chronically in excess.
Are Energy Drinks Bad for Footballers?
Coming to the million-dollar question, it depends. It may sound boring but it really does. It depends on the ingredients, the frequency of intake, and the time when it is consumed. All these things matter. One of the main things is the time when energy drinks are taken. This is where many people get it wrong.
when & when not to consume:
People see footballers drinking energy drinks just before the game and think that they have been drinking it throughout the week. But that is just not true. Professional footballers only take it before or during a game as they need the stimulation from caffeine and the energy from simple sugars. They burn what they drink right away.
They do not use these energy drinks during the regular training days which only contains a reasonable amount of athletic burden. So an energy drink is not needed. Taking energy drinks on regular days can precipitate a sort of addiction and withdrawal symptoms of caffeine.
unharmful for athletes?
Also for the general population taking energy drinks is not recommended as they do not perform the kind of strenuous activity that footballers are accustomed to so much of the simple sugars they take are converted to abdominal fat. Playing football for 90 minutes whilst staying fit and maintaining alertness is a daunting task. That is where caffeine-containing energy drinks in football come in handy.
Caffeine give players the alertness they need and sugars give them the energy to last the 90 minutes without suffering a dip in performance.
So an energy drink is used best before the game on match days and not on training days.
Pros of using energy drinks as a footballer
- Better Jump Height giving greater heading ability
- Caffeine helps to improve alertness
- Increased sprint speed helping beat defenders
- The simple sugars are a great source of instant energy needed before the game
- Electrolyte replenishment helps to indirectly perform better
Cons of using energy drinks as a footballer
- Possible addiction and withdrawal symptoms like insomnia from the caffeine included in energy drinks
- Possible weight gain if sugars in energy drinks are taken during regular days in excess
- High Fructose Corn syrup mat damage the liver or cause Diabetes if taken chronically
- Ginseng and excess Caffeine may cause palpitations or raised heart beat as well as a raised blood pressure
- There is still much to be learnt about many of the ingredients used in energy drinks
There is no question in the fact that energy drinks in football carry substantial benefit. But with the kind of ingredients they include, caution is definitely required.
They should only be taken before a game when strenuous activity is expected. They should not be taken before training or on regular days. The ingredients should be read with their quantities, and intake should be regulated only as little as needed. When these precautions are taken, energy drinks in football are a great way to boost heading, sprinting and other aspects of athletic performance during a game.
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