Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stimulants: An Athletes Asset or Crutch? You decide.

The purpose of today’s blog is to bring about awareness of stimulants, particularly in conjunction with athletes. I welcome your tactful feedback, and opinion on the subject.

Stimulants have been around for a long, long, time. Their use has, for the most part, become very much accepted as a ‘natural’ way of life (outside of illegal drugs). Stimulants are widely used both by layman and athlete, receptionist and homemaker, mechanic and doctor. In fact, studies by the National Coffee Association have shown as much as 54% of the U.S. population consumes coffee on a daily basis. This is coffee alone, tack on sports drinks, energy drinks, supplements, soft drinks, energy ‘shots’, tea, medications, and over-the-counter products, and you have a whole lot more. However, it’s estimated that at least 75% of caffeine use comes from coffee drinkers.


Stimulants have a profound effect on your central nervous system. As soon as caffeine, or any other stimulant, is ingested, it blocks adenosine (a calming neurotransmitter), and stimulates the adrenals to go into ‘Fight or Flight’ mode. Fight or Flight mode is the body’s way of preparing for a fight, or to take flight, it’s an emergency response, and as such, sends the body into a type of rush mode. So every time a stimulant is taken in, it creates ‘stress’ within the body, which eventually, the adrenals, and the body, pay the price for.


Does it, really? I would say in some ways yes, in the long run on your body, no. Yes, studies have shown athletes who ingest caffeine or other ‘natural’,(?) stimulants do better than athletes who have not, particularly in endurance events, consumed caffeine. In fact, caffeine is so good at what it does, the International Olympic Committee placed a ban leading to disqualification for an athlete with urinary limits exceeding 12 mg/ml. Roughly 600 to 800mg of caffeine, or 4 to 7 cups of coffee, consumed over a 30-minute period would be enough to exceed this level and cause disqualification. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has a similar limit, set at 15 mg/ml.

I’d love to see the Olympics with everyone completely clean and the outcome of it. Think how much sports would change, across the board. Who would be the top players in each category? Viewers might actually understand sport commentators, as well, since they wouldn’t be talking 200 m.p.h.


What do you think? Chances are, you use caffeine or another stimulant yourself. I don’t know that I consider an athlete a true athlete if they’re pumped up on a stimulant, even if it’s considered ‘natural’, because stimulants are not part of our genetic make-up, it’s foreign to the human body. It neither builds nor nourishes, it does the opposite, it depletes.

It creates a condition which allows the individual to go ‘’hyper’ mode, and push themselves further then they normally would. Is this a bad thing? You be the judge. I think it’s bittersweet. Of course, every athlete would love to push harder if they could, and the truth is, it’s usually energy, which determines output. Even if that energy comes from an outside source, it does help ‘push’ an athlete further.

The downside is, there’s also a fall, a crash of energy, which leaves the individual feeling fatigued, less than focused, and even weak, hours later. Combine this with the ‘internal stress’ of stimulants on the nervous system, and you must decide which means the greater to you, short-lived energy boost so you can push yourself day by day, or the long-term drain on your central nervous system.


I don’t see a problem with using a stimulant from time to time. Various situations can truly benefit from a boost, such as: a long drive which requires you to stay on the road, or something similar.

It’s the daily use of stimulants that concerns me. When a person can’t function, literally, without their cup of coffee, thermogenic, energy drink, etc., that I start to wonder if it’s really helping or hurting.

I have clients who have come to me consuming anywhere from 75 mg.  of caffeine, to over 1,000 mg. of caffeine alone, daily. The higher end personality isn’t easy to deal with, they’re typically wired, or like rubber, anxious, have trouble focusing their thoughts, concentrating, and sleeping. They tell me this over and over, and over again. Trying to go off the stimulants is like a nightmare to them. The headaches alone, are so overwhelming to most, they prefer to stay on the stimulants, even though they feel miserable.

I attended a certification recently, which required participants engage in an intense workout. The staff had two large containers of coffee brought in by Starbucks. Almost everyone had at least one cup of coffee. It’s come to be accepted as the norm, “If you want to make it through the workout, better get the hype on”. Imagine your workout without it, day after day, after day. What kind of athlete would you be?

I believe if a person is feeling run-down, the best way to handle it is with rest, sleep, proper diet, healthy relationships, etc. I don’t believe using a stimulant to the point it becomes addictive, is in one’s best interest. Have I used caffeine, oh have I. I used to take medication that was nothing but an isolated constituent of caffeine, for a medical condition, for years. It sucked. I never slept more than 3½ hours a night, except when I was completely exhausted, then I’d sleep five. My hands shook, it was hard to concentrate, and I was a very irritable person. It took years to get off the stuff, and my nervous system is still paying the price.



Do you consider an athlete a true athlete when using stimulants and other products, on a daily basis?

No comments:

Post a Comment