If you think chugging a can of Red Bull will make you perform better as an athlete, you might want to consider a beverage change. Red Bull is a drink that mainly contains caffeine while its other ingredients include the amino acid taurine and B-vitamins. The makers of Red Bull bill it as an “energy drink” that increases physical performance, concentration, speed, metabolic rate, energy level and overall sense of well being. That’s a tall order. And in a study published in 2011, the beverage failed to fill it.
The study involved 15 female college soccer players of similar weight and height. The women each exercised at least 12 hours per week and had been playing soccer for 12 to 15 years. The athletes first practiced an exercise routine consisting of three sets of eight sprints — 24 sprints in all. Then, one hour before performing the learned routine as part of the research study, each received one serving of Red Bull or an equal amount of a placebo beverage.
While the athletes exercised, researchers repeatedly checked to see how quickly they could sprint, clocked their heart rates and assessed their perceived rates of exertion — how hard the athletes believed they were working. As it turns out, Red Bull had no effect on the women’s sprinting abilities. While some sprinted faster or slower than others, the differences did not appear to be related to whether or not they consumed Red Bull. In fact, the split was even — five sprinted faster on Red Bull, five sprinted faster on the placebo, and five sprinted just as fast as they had before they drank Red Bull or the placebo.
Everyone’s heart rate increased as a result of exercising. The fastest runners in the Red Bull group had higher heart rates than the fastest sprinters in the placebo group. What’s more, two women reported having stomachaches or tremors after drinking Red Bull. Perhaps Red Bull’s effects on non-athletes would be different than its effects on the trained soccer players who participated in the study.
However, if you’re not already a top-level athlete, and you only plan to drink a single serving of Red Bull, don’t be surprised if not very much changes in terms of your energy and endurance levels after consumption. Furthermore, energy drinks like Red Bull are a no-no for children and pose a danger for everyone when mixed with alcohol.
So what to drink before a workout? Stick with your BPA-free water jug and just down a little H2O before and after your run.