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College Athletes Take Risks with Alcohol and Energy Drinks

by Matrix Admin | Aug 01, 2011
Combining the two beverages leads to adverse health effects, researcher says

BALTIMORE – Among 401 NCAA athletes at a major Division-I university, more than one-third reported mixing alcohol and energy drinks in the previous year, according to a study presented today at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 57th Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

Conrad Woolsey, Ph.D., surveyed athletes from every sport about their consumption of alcohol and high-caffeine energy drinks and the combined use of the two. Within this sample, 315 (78.6 percent) of athletes consumed alcohol and 92 percent of this subgroup participated in alcohol binge-drinking episodes (five or more drinks in one session). Among the drinkers, 150 (47.6 percent) combined alcohol and energy drinks, with 92 participating in “energy-binge” drinking episodes (i.e., drinking three or more energy drinks on one occasion) while combining. Results indicated that athletes were significantly more likely to engage in energy-binge drinking when consuming alcohol when compared to using energy drinks by themselves.

Athletes who were combined-users of alcohol and energy drinks (150 of the 401 surveyed) also consumed more than double the amount of alcohol when compared to athletes who consumed alcohol-only.

Woolsey also compared risk-taking and health consequences when athletes consumed only alcohol to when they combined alcohol with energy drinks. With combined use, athletes declared significant increases in risk-taking and health consequences such as being more likely to drink and drive and experiencing rapid or irregular heartbeats.

“One of the biggest dangers is how energy drinks have increased in strength over the past few years,” Woolsey said. “[Some drinks] contain three to four times the amount of caffeine as others, and consumers need to know that these drinks also contain powerful herbal stimulants such as yohimbine and evodamine, which are far more dangerous than caffeine.” He also noted that athletes and coaches should be aware that most energy drinks are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration.

"Energy drinks work by causing an artificial stress response,” Woolsey said. “In essence, they do not really give a person new energy, but instead cause the release of stored chemicals in our bodies that give us energy.”

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The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the  American College of Sports Medicine.

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