When you’re looking for extra energy to improve your workout or just to get through a slumpy afternoon, it’s easy to crack open a can of carbonated caffeine, but let’s take a look at energy drinks and your core. Some people are sensitive to certain ingredients, and if you have a history of core weakness, injury, or trauma — like abdominal surgery, diastasis recti, hernia, prolapse, or incontinence (leaking from your front or back passages) — then you may want to rethink your drink choices!
I touch on a personal story in the video above, but let me elaborate a bit more: Earlier in the summer, at the start of my racewalking training season, a friend offered me a sip of Bang, an energy drink with more “natural” ingredients. I liked it. I decided to try using it for my longer 8+ mile walks. It definitely put more hustle in my bustle, but it also caused some unpleasant urge incontinence.
Urge incontinence is where you have the sudden sensation of needing to use a toilet really bad, but it’s more often than you actually need to go.
So there I am, about eight miles into a ten-mile walk, and I start to feel like I should maybe slow down or I might lose control. When I slow down, though, I realize I might not get back to the little blue house in the parking lot soon enough, so I speed up, clenching and praying the whole way. However, when I have a sit, nothing happens!
By the way: clenching things really isn’t great for the base of your core (your pelvic floor) but when you’re two miles away from a bathroom and don’t feel like soiling yourself, it’s a natural tendency.
I chalked that first incident up to my mileage increase, the heat, not getting enough sleep the night before. I did some core reconnection and relaxation work later and shrugged it off. Then it happened again — also after consuming an energy drink right before a hard walk — and then again! It took me THREE walks for my brain to connect that I had consumed massive amounts of caffeine and stimulants and sweeteners. No matter how natural they are, energy drinks can still throw off your essential connection to your core!
Drink Ingredients to Watch:
- Caffeine — Pay attention to how your system reacts to more or less of this known bladder irritant and diuretic. Acute caffeine intake also decreases insulin sensitivity (Beaudoin et al).
- Diuretics — Taurine is found in many energy drinks, but it can give you the trots!
- Sweeteners — Even if they are “sugar-free,” they can cause inflammation in your gut! Raising the pressure in your abdominal canister isn’t helpful when you’re dealing with diastasis recti or a weak pelvic floor muscle group. Being bloated is no fun!
- Dyes — The source of color in energy drinks is problematic for people like me who can’t handle Red 40, which makes me itch and want to bite people!
As soon as I stopped using an energy drink, my core was much happier during training sessions. I went back to relying on nutrition and water, and I was able to hit another personal record (PR) during Portland to Coast of 10:40 minutes/mile over 8.02 miles!
“I’ve had people tell me that their doctors have recommended sports drinks for hydration and to replenish electrolytes when they had diarrhea or when they are recovering from an illness or surgery, but I think that is an outdated recommendation. Sports drinks have changed so much over the years that the harm caused by the unwanted additives should not be overlooked.”
—Gillian Sukachevin, WHPT, lead pelvic floor therapist at The Tummy Team
Wait, what about coffee? If you’re not experiencing any unexplainable leaking or urgency issues – no bladder or pelvic discomfort that you can’t pin – then you can probably just keep enjoying your java. I can handle 2-3 cups of coffee per day, no problem. If I add an energy drink later in the day, though, it’s too much. It’s all about knowing your body and considering how caffeine and how ingredients may be affecting this part of your core health and fitness.
Have you connected energy drinks & your core?
Leave a comment with any questions you have. Feel free to share any stories about how energy drinks have helped or hindered your workouts or body. The pelvic floor PT whom I quoted above, Gillian Sukachevin, asked me what I think of Nuun — a dissolvable electrolyte tablet. I have used those without issue. What are your thoughts?