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dancers + caffeine: a helpful combo?

While caffeine consumption has become deeply ingrained in our daily routines, it's essential to recognize that it's NOT a requirement to get through you day. Despite the ubiquity of coffee shops like Starbucks - even outside of the city! There's a free-standing store, there's one inside of the Target across the street, and one inside of the grocery store catty corner to that! - indulging in caffeine is a choice or a habit, not an obligation. Many of us have developed a relationship with caffeine, whether for enjoyment, habit, or even addiction. However, it's crucial to acknowledge the potential negative impacts of regular or excessive caffeine intake.



Individual responses to caffeine vary significantly due to factors such as gender, age, body weight, and metabolism. While it's recommended that the average adult keep their intake under 400mg of caffeine daily, to avoid adverse symptoms, the lack of a recommended daily limit for teens is concerning. Studies have shown, though, that even small amounts of caffeine can trigger symptoms like increased heart rate, jitteriness, and nausea in adolescents. When I say small, I mean 25 mg! That's less than the amount of caffeine found in a 12 ounce soda.


Teens predominantly obtain caffeine from sodas, coffee, tea, and increasingly, energy drinks, which introduce a new frontier for consumption patterns to be monitored and analyzed. Look at one, 12 ounce can of Red Bull - that's 111mg of caffeine!



Now, when it comes to teens, I am most curious about two things:

1) The concentration of caffeine contained in the beverages these dancers drinking. Are they enjoying a cup of tea? A matcha latte? A cup of coffee? An energy drink?

2) The timing of the caffeine consumption.


Regarding concentration of caffeine, a little goes a long way, ESPECIALLY if you're eating a balanced diet that fulfills your energy requirements. I have some recommendations in a previous blog post to help make your caffeine (coffee + tea in particular) more nutritionally satisfying. The question of caffeine concentration also addresses the incredibly high doses present in energy drinks (and even those Panera teas!). Which leads me to my next question...


What are the sleep habits of this teen who is relying on energy drinks to get through their day? Considering that caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours, this is likely a self-contained and continuous series of events:


It's the middle of an afternoon (~2:30/3pm, just after school) and a teen is tired because teens need a good quantity (usually 8 hours) of high quality sleep each night. They reach for an energy drink or a coffee to help them get through their technique class + rehearsal, which is at least 3-4 hours of dancing. Let's say they get home at 8:30pm - it's been about 5.5 hours since they drank that energy drink. With the 5-hour half-life, caffeine is STILL swirling through their system, it's going to take AT LEAST another 5 hours for the processing and metabolizing to complete, and bedtime is right around the corner.


You see where I'm going with this...



I'm sure that you've also heard that caffeine stunts growth and brain development - I honestly couldn't find any studies about this, if you have any you can point me towards, please send them my way! It's possible that those are 'old wives' tales,' there is usually at least a grain of truth in those BUT I will share a personal anecdote that supports it.


According to some calculation that my pediatrician did when I was 2 years old, I was supposed to reach a height of 6'2". Can you imagine!? Once I got older and realized what that meant, I was SO excited to be that tall. Then started my pretty heavy use of caffeine, in the form of a morning coffee (or 2 or 3) followed by another one, or a soda, before I was off to dance. It might not be energy drinks, but that's a pretty hefty amount of caffeine. Now, I can't say for SURE this is the reason I'm only 5'11," but we also can't say it ISN'T the reason either. So use this information as you will.



In conclusion, while caffeine can provide temporary energy boosts, especially for teens engaged in demanding activities like dance, it's essential to approach consumption mindfully - and avoid as much as possible. Understanding the potential risks and moderating intake accordingly can contribute to better overall health and well-being.



Curious about your caffeine intake?


👇 Here are my top 3 tips for dancers regarding caffeine:

☕ Caffeine is NOT a requirement to get through your day.


☕ Enjoying a latte, a tea, a coffee, or a soda can enhance a social outing or just be what your day calls for. If a reliance or a "need" is driving this consumption, pause and ask yourself...


☕ How is my sleep? Am I enjoying a balanced diet that meets my daily energy requirements? Am I consuming caffeine in a way that allows time (at least 10 hours) for it to fully metabolize in my system? Is there something else that's driving my "need" for caffeine?




Sources:

  • Cho H. W. (2018). How Much Caffeine is Too Much for Young Adolescents?. Osong public health and research perspectives, 9(6), 287–288. https://doi.org/10.24171/j.phrp.2018.9.6.01.

  • James, J.E., Kristjánsson, A.L., Sigfúsdóttir, I.D. (2010). Adolescent substance use, sleep, and academic achievement: Evidence of harm due to caffeine. Journal of Adolescents, 34(4), 665-673. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.09.006.

  • Kristjánsson, A.L., Sigfúsdóttir, I.D., Allegrante, J.P., James, J.E. (2011). Adolescent Caffeine Consumption, Daytime Sleepiness, and Anger. Journal of Caffeine Research, 1(1), 75-82. http://doi.org/10.1089/jcr.2011.0008

  • Nordt, S. P., Vilke, G. M., Clark, R. F., Lee Cantrell, F., Chan, T. C., Galinato, M., Nguyen, V., & Castillo, E. M. (2012). Energy drink use and adverse effects among emergency department patients. Journal of community health, 37(5), 976–981. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10900-012-9549-9

  • Pennington, N., Johnson, M., Delaney, E., & Blankenship, M. B. (2010). Energy drinks: a new health hazard for adolescents. The Journal of school nursing : the official publication of the National Association of School Nurses, 26(5), 352–359. https://doi.org/10.1177/1059840510374188

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I'm a Nutrition Educator & Wellness Coach based in and serving Washington, DC and the DMV region. My lifestyle-focused method has successfully helped clients achieve personal results and enhance athletic ability, eMpowering performance in class, rehearsals, and on-stage. As professional dancer myself, I have gained nutritional balance and improved my own relationship with food through many years of practice and a Masters of Science in Nutrition from University of Bridgeport. I bring this depth of personal and academic experience to a variety of clients, particularly performance athletes and fitness enthusiasts. In my spare time, I teach yoga and manage Ballet Embody, a professional contemporary ballet company.
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