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As High Schools Try To Tackle Energy Drinks, Kids React

Christina Ulsh
Lunchtime at Guyer High School

Four years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics said no more energy drinks for adolescents. But anyone trying to keep kids away from drinks like Red Bull and Monster Energy is up against not just a $12 billion industry, but the appeal of something that many adults disapprove of. 

It’s after lunch at Guyer High School in Denton—a witching hour when teenagers have to mightily resist the urge to slump their heads down on their desks.

Freshman James Peeler, however, is wide awake. He had a chicken sandwich and “at least one Red Bull. I needed the energy,” he said.

He says he doesn’t drink Red Bull more than once a month, when he doesn’t sleep well the night before.

His classmate Ashley Davenport tried an energy drink once, and says she’s pretty much over them.  “They make me feel weird," she said. She once drank one before a softball game, and  "was shaking a lot; I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t do anything,” she said.

Maria Inez, a soccer player, says she also tries to abstain.

“Our coaches won’t let us.  They always yell at us if we have an energy drink because it’s really bad before a game," she said.

Pushing the caffeine limits

A government report last spring counted more than 20,000 visits to Emergency Rooms after energy drinks in one year—double the number from four years earlier.

“The primary concern with young athletes is this vicious cycle they get into," said  dietician Jill Castle, addressing a gathering of high school athletic trainers at the Youth Sports Safety Summit in Irving earlier this month. 

"It disturbs their sleep, they go to bed late, they get up early to go to school,  they’re tired, they take an energy drink," she said. 

Castle said coaches should ban energy drinks across the board. She also asked youth sport leagues to stop accepting advertising and stop selling energy drinks at concession stands.

“For young athletes, there is a caffeine limit—no more than 85-100 mg of caffeine per day.”

That’s the equivalent of one cup of coffee. A little bottle of 5-Hour Energy has more than twice that much caffeine.