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Running head: INQUIRY PROJECT

Inquiry Project
Molly Farris
University of North Carolina-Charlotte
UWRT-1102

Ms. Otis
November 6, 2014

INQUIRY PROJECT

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Inquiry Project

As a student athlete, I was always looking for a way to improve my performance to be


better than the girl next to me. I decided to try a popular supplement called C4, which is known
for improving the speed of high school athletes. It only took a few laps around the track before
the side effects of this supplement hit me like a train. Hallucination, confusion, passing out,
tremors, seizure and loss of bodily functions were the aftermath of what seemed like a good idea.
Although I no longer use this supplement, it is still very popular among high school and college
fitness fanatics.
Caffeine as a supplement for athletes is highly debated among scientists and sports
professionals alike. On one hand, it can drastically improve performance times of athletes by
seconds and even minutes. On the other hand, it can cause all sorts of health problems and
eventually addiction. Caffeine is easier to access than one would think. Just a few cups of coffee,
or a Red Bull can give a person a significant buzz. What people dont realize is that the
recommended dose of caffeine, be it from coffee or energy supplements, differs greatly from
person to person. Not only athletes but also the everyday person needs to take into account
multiple aspects, some of which include sex, timing, dose, and sensitivity. Due to their lack of
knowledge on caffeine, young adults and novice athletes are at a high risk of overdosing. If
consumers arent careful about monitoring their intake of caffeine they run the risk of heart
problems, seizures and even death.
It is important, not only for novice athletes, but for the everyday person to understand
background information on the use of caffeine. The Mayo Clinic Staff explains, up to 400
milligrams of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That's roughly the
amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two "energy shot" drinks

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(Mayo Clinic Staff, 2014, para. 1). Without the knowledge of how caffeine works in each
individual, it would be quite easy for athletes and common people alike to overdose.
Earlier this year, a high school senior died from a caffeine overdose. Logan Stiner died
May 18, just a week before his graduation. The reporters explain, The high school senior from
LaGrange, Ohio, had 70 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of blood in his system, according
to Loraine County coroner Stephen Evans. A typical coffee drinker would have 3 to 5
micrograms (Mohney & Lupkin, 2014, para. 3). The death of this teens shows that teens and
young adults dont always understand caffeine and how it affects their bodies.
First we must understand how caffeine works in the body. Caffeine is a naturally
occurring substance in many things such as coffee beans, tealeaves, and cocoa beans ("Caffeine
keep you awake," 2009). When caffeine is absorbed into the blood stream, it is confused by
nerve cells as adenosine, which actually causes one to become sleepy. Caffeine binds to
adenosine receptors and prevent any adenosine to bind, preventing a person from getting drowsy
(Caffeine keep you awake, 2009).
After understanding how caffeine works in the body it is important to understand that
dose and timing in which caffeine is consumed is vital. The first component, timing, is a major
constraint that needs to be taken into account, in a study on mice and how their performance
changed after ingesting caffeine. The mice were given a certain amount of caffeine depending on
their body weight. They then had to wait four hours before being put on the treadmills to see how
the caffeine changed their performance (Imagawa, 2009). This component is just as important for
athletes except, the resting time was shorter due to larger body mass. Athletes were required to
rest one hour before testing. The reason for the resting time is because caffeine is rapidly
absorbed and plasma concentrations approximate a maximum level in one hour (Graham,

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2001). Basically it takes one hour before the caffeine is absorbed into the muscles enough to
have an effect. As an athlete continues to work the level of caffeine drops and the amount needed
to sustain the energy level increases. Athletes must understand that it is vital to know his or her
own body timing. If an athlete consumes too much caffeine this can result in an overdose and
severe side effects.
The second component, dose, is another vital aspect that must be taken into account. Like
previously stated, the mice were given a certain amount of caffeine per their weight. This is more
important than the timing aspect. If the mice were given all given exactly the same amount then
the results would have been skewed. For example, lets say there is a five ounce mouse and a
three ounce mouse and they are both given 100mmoles of caffeine. The three-ounce mouse
would exert more energy at the beginning of the test than the five-ounce mouse because its
balance of caffeine to bodyweight is incorrect. This would in turn result in the three ounce mouse
getting fatigued sooner and if all the caffeine is not used up then the mouse runs a risk of seizure.
This same idea is just as important in athletes as it is in mice, except it must be taken one step
further. The amount of caffeine given to an athlete is dependent on two things: plasma caffeine
concentrations and weight. Plasma caffeine concentration is how much caffeine a persons
plasma can absorb. Weight is important because research has shown that the smaller
bodyweight of the women generally resulted in their average caffeine dose being approximately
20% higher than that of men. Although women are typically smaller, both men and women
absorb caffeine at almost the same rate because there is no difference in the plasma type
(Graham, 2001). Paying attention to both weight and plasma caffeine concentration is vital if an
athletes wants to improve performance in the safest way possible.

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So what does happen if a person consumes too much caffeine in a short amount of time?
Many people find it hard to overdose because of the amount one would have to consume. Cody
Lyon from CNN news reports, Yes, you can OD on caffeine. This is to know your body, pay
attention to what else youve ingested and do your homework on energy drinks (Lyons, 2014,
para. 4). For the average person, overdosing on caffeine means consuming more than 300
milligrams of caffeine in short spurts. Lyon quotes Barbara Crouch saying, Unlike coffee
drinkers, energy drink consumers (especially young people) like to chug down not just one but
two or tree of the peppy beverages to get a good jolt on before a hardcore workout In 2009,
more than half of all caffeine overdoses were by teens under the age of 19. Why is it that teens
and young adults tend to overdose on caffeine? More than half of the nine billion dollar energy
drink industry is consumed by people ages 13-25 (Bankhead, 2011). Most energy drinks have not
been reviewed and are not regulated by the food market, but certain ingredients have been
studied. These ingredients include: taurine, L-carnitine, ginseng, and yohimbine.
Taurine is another supplement that is similar to caffeine. Unlike caffeine, taurine is
actually good for the body. Katherine Zeratsky from the Mayo Clinic explains, Taurine is an
amino acid that supports neurological development and helps regulate the level of water and
mineral salts in the blood (Zeratsky, 2012, p. 1). Studies are showing that taurine supplements
in energy drinks may improve athletic performance. The safe amount of caffeine, as listed
before, is about 400mg per day. A person can consume around 3,000mg of Taurine each day and
still be considered safe. Going back to the study on mice, their performance was compared using
caffeine and taurine. When the mice were originally tested without the use of caffeine or taurine,
they ran an average of 744.7 meters. When the mice given taurine were tested, they ran an
average of 840.7 meters. When the mice given caffeine were tested, they ran an average of

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1354.3 meters. Caffeine improved the performance of the mice significantly more than taurine
did (Imagawa, 2009).
Our bodies naturally need taurine to develop and grow, but caffeine is not a necessity.
Taurine is healthier for the human body and still improves the performance of athletes. Caffeine
significantly improves the performance of athletes more than taurine, and because of this will be
more popular. The best option for athletes is to combine the supplements together because the
taurine is allows for the body to draw in extra water and the caffeine prevents premature fatigue
in an athlete. In the same study with the mice, when they were given both caffeine and taurine,
the average distance was 1589.7 meters (Imagawa, 2009). This will allow an athlete to go farther
and also prevent them from overdosing on one or the other.
Similar to athletes, college students face multiple stressors in their daily lives, which
could lead them to use caffeine to help them stay focused. A study was done to see how often
and how many students used energy drinks to keep them going. Out of 136 participants, around
half the students consumed at least one energy drink in the past seven days (Pettit & Debarr,
2011). Nathalie Vera explains, Usually, the life of a college student is largely characterized by
microwave dinners, 10-page papers, all-nighters, crazy parties, alcohol and, of course, coffee
(Vera, 2012, para. 1). Coffee is another major contributor for caffeine use among college
students. The FDA explains that roughly one third of caffeine consumption is from teenagers and
young adults, or college aged people (Somogyi, 2010). This puts this age group at higher risk for
have complications.
Using caffeine to improve either academics or sports goals is safe if done correctly. If a
person consumes more than 400 milligrams, they run the risk of caffeine overdose. The main
symptoms to watch out for include: breathing troubles, confusion, convulsions, hallucinations,

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irregular heartbeat, muscle twitches and vomiting (Heller, 2014).


So what is the significance to all this? The implications for caffeine use go beyond health
and performance. Caffeine has had a significant impact on the performance of athletes in
different sports all over the world. So much so, it was recently removed from the list of banned
drugs for the Olympic games. Of every age gap, teens and young adults have the highest risk of
experiencing an overdose from caffeine use. This is due to the lack of education about proper use
of caffeine in ones daily life. To properly use caffeine, one must understand the timing and
dosing that their body can handle. Also females will normally need much less males due to their
smaller size and weight. Taurine is another option for athletes to improve performance and is
sometimes considered safer since the body needs it to develop. Whether one decides to use
caffeine is completely dependent on the individual, but be warned that without the proper
education and understanding, one can quickly end up in deep water.

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References

Bankhead, C. (2011). Energy drinks may pose risk to young people. Retrieved from
http://www.medpagetoday.com/Pediatrics/GeneralPediatrics/24856
Graham, T. E. (2001). Caffeine and Exercise: Metabolism, Endurance and Performance.
Retrieved from Sports Med Website:
http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.librarylink.uncc.edu/ehost/detail/detail?sid=9c3887bd-1f7646fa-8093481866b00e82%40sessionmgr4001&vid=0&hid=4111&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbG
l2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=s3h&AN=5114855
Heller, J. (2014). Caffeine overdose. Retrieved from
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002579.htm
Imagawa, T. F., Hirano, I., Utsuki, K., Horie, M., Naka, A., Matsumoto, K., & Imagawa, S.
(January 01, 2009). Caffeine and taurine enhance endurance performance. International
Journal of Sports Medicine, 30, 7, 485-8.
Lyons, C. (2014). Caffeine overdose: Is it real? Retrieved from
http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/03/health/upwave-caffeine-overdose/
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014). Caffeine: How much is too much? Retrieved from
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/indepth/caffeine/art-20045678
Mohney, G., & Lupkin, S. (2014, July 2). Teen death highlights health hazards of caffeine
powder. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/teen-death-highlightshealth-hazards-caffeine-powder/story?id=24397704

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Pettit, M., & Debarr, K. (2011). Percieved stress, energy drink consumption, and academic
performance among college students [Entire issue]. Journal of American College Health,
59(5). http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07448481.2010.510163
Somogyi, L. (2010). Caffeine intake by the U.S. population (70000073494). Washington, DC:
Government Printing Office.
Vera, N. (2012, November 28). Coffee and college students: A harmful relationship? The Bottom
Line. Retrieved from http://thebottomline.as.ucsb.edu/2012/11/coffee-and-collegestudents-a-harmful-relationship
Why does caffeine keep you awake? (2009). Retrieved from
http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/drugs-alcohol/caffeine-awake.htm
Zeratsky, K. (2012). Taurine is listed as an ingredient in many energy drinks. What is taurine? Is
it safe? Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthyeating/expert-answers/taurine/faq-20058177

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