Carbonated beverages, like soda, are especially popular in America, especially among children, teens and young adults. With the wide availability of soda in America, being served at nearly every restaurant and easily accessible in check-out aisles at the store, it isn’t hard to imagine why soda accounts for over 25 percemt of all beverages consumed in the United States.
High consumption of soda has health risks for any individual. (Read my article, “The risks of soda and some healthy alternatives.”) There is a special concern, however, when it comes to athletes consuming soda and other carbonated beverages. Athletes have many heightened physical demands, and due to this, it may be riskier for athletes to consume soda and carbonated beverages than it is for an average person who leads a sedentary lifestyle.
Soda and carbonated beverages contain extremely large amounts of sugar, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup. The amount of sugar in a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola is enough to equal 10 cubes of sugar. This excessive sugar can lead to a sudden burst of energy and a subsequent crash due to the body being unable to regulate insulin levels at a gradual rate following the sugar rush. This kind of crash can be especially bad for athletes who are required to perform over an extended period of time, such as long-distance runners.
It may be surprising to some, but a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in September of 2001 suggested that the consumption of carbonated beverages lead individuals to have an increased risk of bone fractures. This risk is believed to be higher in females than in males. Because athletes already are at an increased risk of sustaining a bone injury, it is best to avoid anything, including soda, that can increase that risk even further.
Caffeine isn’t a good idea for athletes, especially on the day of a big event or game. Caffeine can lead to shakiness, increased heart rate, heart palpitations, dizziness and tremors. Caffeine is also a diuretic, leading to the excretion of fluids. The diuretic effect of caffeine can lead to excessive fluid loss and dehydration; something that can be catastrophic for athletes. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, fatigue, electrolyte imbalance, fainting spells, and even death in severe circumstances. Athletes should always ensure that they are properly hydrated before engaging in physical activities.
*Samantha Van Vleet is a biology student and former high school athlete.