The Dangers of Energy Drinks: St. Louis Rams LT Rodger Saffold's Near-Fatal Experience Article By| July 6, 2012
Energy drinks are generally formulated to deliver high concentrations of caffeine to generate a rush
of energy. This may be OK for the 9-to-5 desk jockey who needs extra oomph to get through the afternoon;
but for the high-performing athlete grinding through an intense workout, a caffeine rush can cause
dehydration, which can increase body temperature and heart rate.
As Dr. Lori Bestervelt reports in her STACK.com article,
some energy drinks pose even higher risks due to the effects of other stimulants, such as guarana,
green tea and ginseng. “When multiple stimulants are combined in one beverage, serious cardiovascular
Rodger Saffold, St. Louis Rams left tackle and blindside protector of franchise quarterback Sam
Bradford, knows all too well about those serious cardiovascular issues. Saffold shared his story as a guest
panelist at the National Athletic Trainers Association’s 63rd Annual Meeting and Clinical Symposium.
According tthe former Indiana Hoosier recalled a summer training session between his
sophomore and junior years where, following a weightlifting session, his workout group decided to run the
After 10 sets, Saffold said, “I had chest pains, which I thought were just part of being tired.” Saffold
consulted with the team athletic trainer, who determined that he could be on the verge of cardiac arrest. The
trainer sprung into action, putting Saffold in a cold shower to lower his body temperature while also working
to steady his breathing. It took 15 minutes for Saffold’s heart rate to return to normal. The trainer’s quick
Subsequent testing revealed that Saffold’s rapid heart rate stemmed from fatigue, overexertion and
a large dose of caffeine-laced energy drinks.
The lesson in Saffold’s story? Energy drinks are not a replacement for sports drinks. Going further,
we can conclude that there is no place for caffeinated energy drinks in relation to training, games and
competition. Kick the caffeine habit andto suit your fueling and
Raising a Red Flag on Some Energy Drinks Article By| April 5, 2012
Energy drinks have enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years. Beverage Digest estimates that
the market for these products is now a $7.7 billion industry.1 Yet despite their increasing popularity,
controversy still exists about the safety and suitability of these beverages for daily use; and many people
don't realize the danger that some of them can pose. Several states have attempted to pass legislation
banning the sale of such drinks to minors. Although no bills have passed, they served as a warning to
manufacturers. If you choose to consumeit's important to educate yourself about them—
both what they do and their possible side effects.
Energy Drinks vs. Sports Drinks
It's important not to confuse energy drinks withwhich are intended to re-hydrate the
body. Sports drinks such as Gatorade both provide sugars, which the body burns to create energy, and
replenish electrolytes, which helps to maintain sodium and potassium balances in the body. Energy drinks
containing large amounts of caffeine produce the opposite effect, causing dehydration, which can lead to
fatigue, increase body temperature and heart rate, and potentially place an individual in a compromised
position for performance. This is true for weekend warriors, active fitness enthusiasts and even elite
Energy drinks are generally formulated to deliver high concentrations of caffeine to generate a rush
of energy. But many other beverages also contain caffeine. For example, eight ounces of coffee has about
108 milligrams of caffeine; brewed tea has 50 milligrams; and 12 ounces of Coca-Cola has 34 milligrams.
Eight ounces of Red Bull, which is part oprogram, has about 75 milligrams of
caffeine. However, other very highly caffeinated energy drinks can contain between 150 and 500 milligrams
in eight ounces. Consumption of that much caffeine can lead to caffeine intoxication. At such high levels, it is
It's also important to pay attention to serving size. Some energy drinks are packaged in bottles or
cans that contain multiple servings, so consuming a full container in a single setting could introduce an
Some energy drinks pose even higher risks due to the additive effect of other stimulants—such as
guarana, green tea, yohimbine, vinpocetine, 5-hydroxyl trypophan methylphenylethylamine (5-HTP) and
ginseng. When multiple stimulants are combined in one beverage, serious cardiovascular issues can occur.
Because little is known about the mix of ingredients in some of these products, and their effects, some
organizations have raised questions about their safety, especially for athletes. In 2008, the National
Federation of State High School Associations, which recommends water and sports drinks for hydration,
intentionally did not recommend energy drinks, because they were not proven to have a positive effect on
performance and they could cause health risks.2 Additional concerns often cited about these products
Drug Interactions: Some ingredients are known to interact with certain prescription and over-the-
counter drugs, causing adverse health effects or reducing the drug's effectiveness. Also, it is unclear whether ingestion of the multiple ingredients found in energy drinks may adversely affect patients with poorly controlled or undiagnosed psychiatric conditions.
Blood Thinners: Products containing vinpocetine can increase blood flow to the brain. People who
take blood thinners—including aspirin, Coumadin, Plavix, Tidid, Pentoxifyline, vitamin E, garlic or gingko supplements—should avoid consuming energy products containing this ingredient.
Blood Pressure: Yohimbine, another stimulant found in many energy drinks, should not be taken
in combination with antidepressants, drugs that lower blood pressure, amphetamines or any other central nervous system stimulant. The combination of yohimbine with these other substances can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels and make the blood pressure medication inactive. Similarly, yohimbine should not be consumed along with nasal decongestants, diet products containing phenylpropanolamine, cheese or red wine, because it can result in high blood pressure and heart palpitations.
Alcohol Interaction: Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of
energy drinks containing alcohol, some individuals still risk their health and safety by mixing these beverages with alcohol. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who combine energy beverages with alcohol significantly underestimate their true level of impairment.3
We still have much to learn about energy drinks and their effects. Athletes especially need to
understand both the diuretic and stimulant effects of caffeine and other stimulant ingredients present in
these beverages. If you do choose to consume these products, carefully read their labels and thoroughly
research their contents. Always follow the manufacturer's recommended serving size, and never consume
multiple servings in a single setting. For added peace of mind, athletes at all levels should look for
certification before purchasing or consuming energy drinks and sports supplements. For more information,
1. "Energy Drink Growth Accelerating. Category Becoming A Story of Three Brands." (2011). Retrieved
2. Seifert, S., Schaechter, J., Hershorin, E., Lipschultz, S. (2011). "Health Effects of Energy Drinks on
Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults." PEDIATRICS, 3, 511 -528. Retrieved from
3. "Non-alcoholic energy drinks may pose 'high' health risks." Retrieved March 28, 2012, from
Dr. Lori L. Bestervelt holds dual positions with NSF International: senior vice president of NSF’s health sciences division and chief technical officer overseeing NSF’s global network of engineering, chemistry and microbiology laboratories and toxicology services. Dr. Bestervelt holds a Ph.D. in toxicology, a master’s degree in nutritional biochemistry and a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and immunology, all from the University of Michigan. She completed her post-doctoral work in the University of Michigan Medical School’s Biochemistry Department. Prior to joining NSF, she was a scientist at Pfizer. Dr. Bestervelt is a member of the Society of Risk Analysis, the Michigan Society of Toxicology and the advisory board for molecular biology/biology at Eastern Michigan University.Understanding Sports Drinks to Choose the Right One for You
Sinchit the market in the 1960s, sports beverages have continued to gain popularity among athletes across
the spectrum, from recreational to elite. As major sponsors of sporting events and professional teams, sports drinks have
a presence that is hard to miss. They've almost become a food group in themselves, so it's important to understand the
When Should I Use a Sports Drink?
Most sports drinks contain a blend of carbohydrates, sodium and potassium. Sodium is added to replace losses from
sweat and to encouragwhich stimulates water and sugar uptake. Sports drinks supply carbohydrate for fuel
during exercise, stimulate rapid fluid uptake, ensure optimal hydration and promote recovery post-exercise for activities
lasting over an hour. Water is a greatfor exercise lasting 45 minutes or less.
Which Sports Drink Should I Choose?
The drink you choose depends o your weight and body type, your sport, its duration and intensity,
environmental conditions, and personal preference. Basically, you need to balance the need to supply water against fuel.
Sports drinks with higher carb content supply more fuel but reduce the rate of fluid delivery. Hence if water is your priority,
choose sports drinks with lower carb content.
Sport Drink Classifications 1. Isotonic
The most commonly consumed sports drinks, they contain between six and eight percent carbs. The preferred choice of
athletes engaged in middle to long-distance running and team sports, since they offer a ready source of carbs in addition
to replenishing fluids and electrolytes. Examples: Gatorade G2, Powerade ION4, and Ironman PERFORM by Powerbar.2. Hypotonic
These contain fewer carbs while supplying much-needed fluids and electrolytes. They are good for figure athletes
(gymnasts, acrobats, dancers, jockeys) or for athletes who are seeking to improve their body composition and reduce
weight. Examples: Low calorie Gatorade G2, Mydrade, Slazenger S1 and Hydralyte Sports.3. Hypertonic
Higher in carbohydrate content, these are generally used to top up muscle glycogen stores post-exercise and as a
supplement to daily carb intake. In ultra-endurance events where extra fuel is necessary, hypertonic drinks may be used
during activity. They should, however, be used in conjunction with Isotonic drinks.
Recentlyave been touted a sports drinks/gels. Bananas
and raisins supply ample carbs to fuel the body, but fail to supply adequate fluid. Be mindful of practicality and
accessibility issues when attempting to replace sports drinks with foods during exercise. If you wish to try coconut water
as an alternative to a sports drink, be aware that it might cause increased bloating and stomach discomfort.
Sports drinks that are acidic have been linked to dental erosion, so be conscious of this if you consume them frequently.
Sports drinks can also cause upset stomach in some athletes because of the sudden rapid increase in carb intake during
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