Athletic teens and caffeine

Healthy alternatives to caffeine before a workout; why pre-workout can cause more harm than good.

Being an athlete isn’t easy; especially being a teen athlete. We have to manage school, club activities and family while still giving it our all in the weightroom, on the field or the court. We come home some nights at 12 a.m. from practice and still have to wake up the next morning before the su

Ryse and Vices & Vibes are two pre-workout brands that are high in caffeine and popular among teens. (Stevie Scheiffele)

n rises, not getting nearly as much sleep as we need. With feelings of exhaustion and fatigue, some teens may play upbeat music and turn up the volume to keep themselves awake. Others may do morning yoga to re-energize and to get a good stretch in before the day starts. With student athletes having packed schedules every week, energy drinks and caffeinated supplements that claim to enhance performance or reduce tiredness are often substituted for sleep. Even though these methods seem like a quick fix, the long term effects can be extremely dangerous. So, what should teens turn to if they feel drained before their workout even starts? Simple: not caffeine.

Studies have shown that while caffeine can give you a temporary jolt of energy before a workout, the long term effects of it can be highly dangerous. Ingesting too much caffeine for an extended period of time or in large doses can cause headaches, frequent stomach discomfort or even elevated blood pressure levels. As someone who has a family history of heart problems, I have to be very cautious about the caffeine content in certain things I eat and drink. But this doesn’t mean I don’t have healthy pre-workout alternatives. Here are my top 5 favorite foods I enjoy before a workout.

Even though this fruit can be a little tough to peel, they are still nutritious and beneficial to have before an exercise. Oranges are packed with Vitamin C which helps increase antioxidant function in the blood. This helps to restore, repair and rebuild your muscles during and after an intense workout. Vitamin B-12, which is also found in oranges, can reduce feelings of bodily weakness and provide energy without any caffeine.

Oats, oranges and raw honey have shown positive effects in boosting energy naturally. (Stevie Scheiffele)

Oats are one of the best foods to eat before a lengthy and ambitious workout. Oats are high in carbohydrates that help with weight loss by keeping you feeling full for longer periods of time. Oats can also be served in a variety of different ways, from smoothies to heart-healthy muffins.

Banana with Peanut Butter
Some days, I don’t have time to prepare a snack before I go to the gym. So instead, I’ll have one of my favorite quick and easy pre-workout alternatives: a banana with peanut butter. Bananas digest quickly in the stomach and supply a good source of clean carbs while the peanut butter provides a healthy source of fats and protein. Carbohydrates and protein are key components to having a successful workout because they provide sustainable energy and service to sore muscles.

Raw Honey
For those who want to have something light and fueling before hitting the gym, a spoonful of raw honey is the perfect, sustainable snack. Honey, in moderation, can provide a stable source of energy prior to working out. Just a tablespoon of this superfood can maintain glucose levels in the blood better than various other carbohydrates. I would recommend honey before completing a lengthy cardio session.

Athletes are constantly finding new ways to up their game, whether that’s with the newest sports drink or eating nutritious meals daily. Natural remedies and whole foods are far safer and beneficial for the body when compared to caffeinated drinks and various supplements. Although the pre-workout industry directs their products towards adults, teens often find themselves taking endless scoops of “exercise enhancing powder” they don’t even know hardly anything about.

If there are safer alternatives to caffeine, then why are we still turning to harsh chemicals with a lengthy list of unpronounceable ingredients? As a teen athlete, you’re going to get tired and you’re going to feel weak before workouts; that’s just a part of being one. But, using caffeine and pre-workout as a crutch will never be a reliable source and provide us teen athletes with what we really need- a stable, healthy source of energy.