Since caffeine consumption is common with adults (over 80% of adults are consuming at least some caffeine every week and over 55% are consuming caffeine daily) and it has been studied regarding adult sport performance, it would be natural to wonder if there would be any benefit to caffeine and kids’ sports performance. While many adults get their caffeine fix in the form of a morning cup (or two) of coffee, the younger generation is turning to energy drinks.  Consuming caffeine is easier and more readily available for all generations and may have possible benefits for adults. However, does that mean caffeine intake can positively impact sports performance for the young?

Caffeine’s Impact on Sports Performance in Adults

While studies have shown caffeine intake in adults to have a wide range of possible benefits, particularly when it comes to sports performance, among them:  enhanced endurance exercise performance, improved reaction time, increase oxygen uptake; and delayed feelings of fatigue, is it fair to assume caffeine consumption in teens and pre-teens is beneficial as well?

Caffeine and Teenagers

Doctors feel it would would be unwise to assume any benefits to adult athletes would apply to teens.  Although the effects of caffeine on teenagers have not been studied as in depth as the effects on adults, still 25%-50% of energy drink sales in the USA are to the 12- to 18-year-old age group.  Between school demands, sports, activities, and a lack of sleep, it’s not surprising that teens turn to caffeine for an energy boost.

Sources of Caffeine for Children and Teens

Children and teens are not only drinking more caffeine than prior years, they are turning to a variety of sources.  While they are consuming less caffeinated soda, they are turning to more coffee and energy drinks. Many energy drinks contain banned substances or other stimulants that are less well-studied (guarana, guayaki, guayusa).  They also have varying levels of caffeine. Because teens metabolize caffeine differently than adults, it is much easier for them to become caffeine toxic or to overdose.  Side effects from caffeine are more common in teens than adults, including:  the jitters, sleep disturbances, inability to focus, nausea, and vomiting.  Also, since many teenagers currently take prescription drugs to treat ADHD, caffeine consumption is even more risky.

The Risks of Caffeine and Energy Drinks on Teens

Despite advertising and peer acceptance of caffeine and energy drink consumption, the risks to kids and teens are real and it is best avoided.  Science hasn’t adequately studied how much caffeine is safe for kids and teens.  Research has shown that energy drinks can cause dangerous changes in heart function and blood pressure above and beyond caffeine alone.  In 2007, the number of caffeine related emergency room visits in the US was 10,068.  By 2011, this number jumped to more than 20,000 ER visits in which an energy drink was cited as the primary cause or contributing factor of the health problem.  With energy drink sales skyrocketing to $21 billion in 2017, this is clearly a problem that isn’t going away.

For Kids and Teens The Risk of Caffeine Outweighs the Benefits

While deaths from caffeine overdose are rare, the long-term health effects of frequent and liberal caffeine consumption by teens and young adults are unknown.  Doctors caution kids and teens NOT to consume energy drinks, whether it’s to improve sports performance or just to stay awake.  The health risks of caffeine and other substances is too great.