Caffeine Consumption Yields Consequences

Brittany Hayes, Web Editor

Anyone on a college campus knows the importance of a cup of joe to students and faculty alike, but caffeine can be very dangerous if not consumed in moderation, particularly with trendy caffeine powders and energy drinks..

Anita Yurek, registered nurse in the Health and Wellness Center, warns students of  the health threats of consuming too much caffeine can cause.

“Some studies indicate that a moderate amount of caffeine ingestion is not harmful. A moderate amount is considered to be 100-200 milligrams per day.  That is the equivalent of one to five 5 oz. cups of coffee. However, even the ingestion of a moderate amount of caffeine is known to cause effects such as feelings of shakiness, difficulty falling asleep, rapid heart rate, an increase in blood pressure, headaches, dehydration, and an exacerbation of anxiety or panic attacks.”

Mark Ross, head football coach, warns student athletes that too much caffeine can lessen physical performance..

“As an athlete, if you start drinking too much caffeine you open yourself up to potential things like cramping.  Your body, your kidneys, have a hard time being able to maintain your sodium levels. Also, tightness in your muscles can occur.”

Ross believes caffeine offers no significant benefits to student athletes.

“I’m probably not the most educated guy on caffeine abuse or effects on athletic performance, but from what I am aware of, there does seem to be some benefit if you’re talking about an endurance type of activity, long distance running, swimming, cycling whereas if you are talking about something shorter, sprinters jumpers, the effects are minimal, if any. From our sports perspective, I don’t know if there’s a real benefit in terms of performance worth some of the side effects.”

Yurek believes that most students consume caffeinated beverages to feel invigorated or to be more alert during class and everyday activities.

“It may be consumed in an effort to avoid a caffeine withdrawal headache. Although a person may experience the side effects, they may not recognize or acknowledge them, being focused on the desired effect of increased alertness, or the avoidance of withdrawal symptoms.”

Yurek also said students may be consuming caffeine in ways they are unaware of.  This added intake can exacerbate negative effects of caffeine.

“Many people are aware that caffeine is present in coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, et cetera. What they may not be aware of is all of the other commonly used products, which also contain caffeine. Once a person is aware of the amount of caffeine they are consuming, they can gradually decrease their intake of caffeine. By doing so, withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, tiredness and depression can be minimized.”

Despite the threat, Ross believes people are abusing caffeine, even though he has never seen it himself.

“I’m not going to pretend that there probably aren’t people using caffeine in this way, but I haven’t walked around campus and noticed anything. I see a lot of the teams in the fall because we are all down around the field house at the same time, but I have seen nothing with any of the fall student athletes that would make me wonder if someone was using  caffeine powder.”

Yurek believes there are many alternatives to caffeine a student can take to feel more energized.

“Alternative ways to feel a sense of well-being and increased energy is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This can be achieved by eating balanced meals, getting an adequate amount of sleep each night, and by keeping your body in motion. Something as simple as a brisk walk can cause your body to release endorphins that will give you that energetic feeling you crave.”

Ross agrees  and said there are many ways to regain energy without abusing caffeine.

“Eat properly. Get enough rest. We harp on it quite a bit with our kids. If you just provide the body the fuel it needs – nutrients and minerals – it will perform. You don’t need to add all of this extra stuff. I don’t think a cup of coffee or two is necessarily bad, but when you add to it these high energy drinks or these caffeine powders, that’s when you start to run into bad situations.”

Ross also said while caffeine may not be seen as a drug because it is not illegal, he would still support students in their request for treatment if they suspect they have developed an addiction to it.

“If they came to me, I would try to get them to the same people I would send someone to for any other illegal substance. Just because caffeine isn’t illegal doesn’t mean that you don’t need that same kind of help if you have that bad of an addiction to it.”