9 July 2018. Sports drinks containing caffeine and carbohydrates are important for sportspeople and clear distinctions must be made between their properties and those of energy drinks not specifically targeted at athletes, argues the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA).

In light of the recent UK House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee’s oral evidence session on the health effects of energy drinks on children and young people, ESSNA, the sports nutrition industry’s representative trade association across Europe, wants to correct the common misconception around the issue – namely the confusions as to the difference between sports drinks and energy drinks.

Dr Adam Carey, Chair of ESSNA said:

“It’s important to first and foremostly remember that the majority of sports drinks (by sales volume) do not contain caffeine. Those that do will contain 200mg or less, a dosage level found to be safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). When caffeine is used in sports products, it is targeted at healthy, physically active adults, and carefully dosed and presented for use during endurance exercise – the benefits of which have been validated by EFSA. There is growing evidence that caffeine may be beneficial in other areas too. Similarly, sports drinks will usually have a specific level of carbohydrate content, which is lower than many energy drinks or other soft drinks, and benefits of which have also been recognized by EFSA in the context of physical activity.”

“Sports nutrition products containing caffeine and carbohydrates, unlike energy drinks, are designed and used by consumers for activities which increase the body’s nutritional and physiological needs. They are designed to be used specifically before, during and/or after exercise and are typically used to replace electrolytes and macronutrients. They are certainly not used to replace sleep or a healthy lifestyle, which is the main issue of concern with energy drinks; that consumers use them whenever they feel they need an ‘energy’ effect. It is crucial that a clear distinction is made between the two; sports drinks are entirely different from caffeinated energy drinks in composition, use and marketing, and it’s time we stopped using both terms interchangeably”

“Finally, the marketing of sports drinks is clear in explaining the right conditions for product consumption; it is targeted at people engaged in physical activity and is categorically not directed towards adolescents and children. High energy intake is necessary for sportspeople – the European Commission has long since recognized that sportspeople have specific nutritional needs that must be accounted for – but our industry is clear in that it is discouraged for others.”

ESSNA is the voice of the sports nutrition industry and is in dialogue with regulators and policy makers, campaigning in favour of proportionate legislation that protects consumers and does not adversely affect the industry. ESSNA also works with authorities and other trade associations across the food industry to monitor and report irresponsible companies that flout EU law and may put consumers at potential risk from dangerous products.