There are alternative fuels for the energy boost

Caffeine gives athletes the needed surge but its not the only source.


Lindsay Benza '23

Caffeine contains benefits for the human body when consumed at the appropriate amount.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that is commonly used to boost energy, however, an excess amount can lead to negative side effects.  In the United States, over 80 percent of adults consume caffeine daily according to  Ms. Gianna Masi, a local dietician and founder of Gritty Nutrition, explains the importance of balance when drinking caffeinated beverages.

Ms. Masi spoke with Sacred Heart Greenwich students during Upper School Sports Night in September 2021, sharing important information regarding nutrition for athletes.  She discussed similar topics with the senior health classes throughout January and February.

Caffeine, specifically coffee, offers positive effects when incorporated appropriately into a person’s diet.  Coffee can aid the processing of glucose in the human body and reduce the chances of diabetes, stroke, and kidney and heart disease, according to In addition to coffee, beverages such as tea, soda, and energy drinks contain caffeine.  Caffeine helps to boost energy and enhance mental and physical performance, according to

The Supplement Facts on a box of herbal tea display the amount of caffeine in the product.  Lindsay Benza ’23

Ms. Masi describes the impacts of caffeine on the human body.  She elaborated on the specific benefits that caffeine can provide.

“There are many benefits of consuming caffeine, and not surprisingly, the amount and timing of caffeine consumption can improve or hurt overall health,” Ms. Masi said.  “Caffeine provides us with antioxidants, and depending on the source of the caffeine, [these antioxidants] can provide us with different polyphenols or flavonoids which help our body with inflammation.  Antioxidants help our body manage and limit free radicals.”

Caffeine is beneficial to athletes as physical exertion requires energy.  According to Ms. Masi, when athletes consume caffeine before working out, they can experience better performance in weight lifting or endurance sports.

While caffeine can contribute to one’s well-being, too much caffeine can be detrimental to the human body.  Ingesting more than the suggested 400 milligrams of caffeine a day can lead to increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia, according to  If an individual is exhibiting symptoms of nervousness, headaches, irritability, and muscle tremors, specialists recommend reducing caffeine intake, according to Ms. Masi states that overconsumption of caffeine does a disservice to the body.  She outlined additional concerns she has about consuming caffeine.

“People are consuming caffeine too late in their day, after school, or after work,” Ms. Masi said.  “Caffeine has a long half-life, which means if you consume it after school your body may still be metabolizing it as you start to wind down and prepare for bed.  Everyone has a different sensitivity or tolerance to caffeine, but I always encourage people to stop drinking caffeine before lunch.  If someone wants to use it as a pre-workout for an activity in the afternoon, then I advise them to consume a controlled, smaller amount.”

There are many energy-boosting alternatives to caffeine.  According to Ms. Masi, extra sleep is one substitute for excessive caffeine intake.  By taking naps or going to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual, the human body can produce and gain energy.  She recommends fueling the body throughout the day with nutritious foods that contain complex carbohydrates and proteins to support both the mind and body.  Additionally, she states that staying hydrated is key to keeping energy levels high.  Ms. Masi also encourages people to understand the differences in labels on common caffeine products.

“‘Nutrition Facts’ labels are [Food and Drug Association (FDA)] regulated, but ‘Supplement Facts’ are not,” Ms. Masi said.  “This means banned substances or uncontrolled amounts of caffeine and other ingredients can be formulated in excess in these unregulated products.  Conversely, just because something is FDA regulated or on the shelves for purchase does not mean it is safe or good for our health.”

The Sacred Heart Upper School community took part in a survey regarding daily caffeine consumption and caffeinated beverages of choice.  Fifty-three point three percent of Upper School community members consume less than 95 milligrams of caffeine a day, which is equivalent to one cup of coffee.  Forty-six point seven percent said that they consume more than 95 milligrams of caffeine a day.  Out of the 46.7 percent, only 4.3 percent of students consume more than the recommended 400 milligrams of caffeine a day.  Additionally, 61.4  percent of the community voted for coffee as their caffeinated beverage of choice while 13.9 percent chose tea and 13.3 percent chose soda.

Members of the Upper School responded to various questions regarding daily caffeine consumption.  Lindsay Benza ’23

Junior Maddy Ball drinks coffee and takes supplements throughout her day to help her academic and athletic performance.  As a student-athlete, she believes that when she consumes caffeine she is more focused and invigorated.

“Almost every morning I will have a cup of coffee, which is around 100 milligrams of caffeine,” Maddy said.  “Then, in the afternoons, I will take my pre-workout [supplements] before the gym which contains 250 milligrams of caffeine.  Personally, having a cup of coffee in the morning helps me wake up and stay alert, especially during my early classes.  Taking pre-workout [supplements] before my lifts in the afternoons gives me a burst of energy after a long day of school.”

Maddy reports that she ingests around 350 milligrams of caffeine daily.  However, caffeine also exists naturally in other parts of typical diets, including fruits, seeds, and leaves, according to  Despite her improved athletic and academic performance, Maddy remains cautious as to how much caffeine she consumes on a daily basis.

“I try to be as mindful as possible about my caffeine intake day today because I know it can be harmful,” Maddy said.  “I try to seek out other ways to gain energy and not always rely on caffeine because along with the benefits, there are negative impacts.”

Featured Image by Lindsay Benza ’23