NCAA Rules Against Celsius Energy Drinks: Helpful, or Stressful for Student Athletes?

The life of an athlete is one that can be extremely challenging. Being an athlete means consistently being on the go. Between balancing school, athletics, and a social life, there is often little to no time for anything else. But how do athletes fuel their bodies to withstand these long days and nights? Most high school and collegiate athletes will turn to energy drinks as the answer. One of the most popular energy drinks, as of 2022, is Celcius. Celsius contains its own MetaPlus blend which consists of thermogenic properties that help to increase the consumer’s metabolism, and allows the athlete to burn more calories and fat in addition to working out. However, two of the primary ingredients in this unique blend are strictly regulated by the NCAA. Those two ingredients are Guarana and Taurine. Caffeine intake is also regulated by the NCAA. 

According to RxList’s drug fact sheet, Guarana is a stimulant that is used to reduce fatigue, increase weight loss, and enhance athletic performance This extract works very similarly to coffee, seeing as it is a form of caffeine. Although caffeine is not banned by the NCAA, the rules state that “…athletes cannot have a caffeine concentration higher than 15 micrograms per milliliter (mcg/ml) in their body.” For the average man– if consumed a few hours before the test– this limit can be reached by just five 8oz cups of coffee! In just one celsius drink, there is 200 mg of caffeine, which is more than double the amount of the NCAA limit. Taurine is an amino acid, which, similar to caffeine, is restricted but not banned by the NCAA. According to an article from USA Today Sports, if an athlete consumes high levels of Taurine it can result in “inhibitory effects on central nervous system neurons.” According to Shasta Orthopedics, “Doses of 3-6 mg/kg, which do not produce urine concentrations that would result in disqualification, have been found to be ergogenic.” . Therefore too much of this amino acid has the potential to enhance performance abilities. 

When asked how she started drinking Celsius in the first place, first year student-athlete Katherine Taveras stated, “I started to drink Celsius because I needed an energy drink, especially for my long days. Once I found out it was best to drink before doing exercise, I had to try it out. Ever since finding my favorite flavor, I never stopped drinking it.” 

Taveras has been drinking Celsius for over four years, beginning in her sophomore year of high school up until her freshman year of college. 

When asked if she had any other alternatives to drinking Celsius, she said, “I have yet to find an alternative for Celsius. Celsius was a drink that didn’t taste like a regular energy drink.” 

With the large variety and assortment of drink types Celsius offers, most student-athletes find it almost impossible to find alternative sources that match the taste and effects that this energy drink provides. 

However, this belief is far from the truth. When interviewing Centennial Conference Athletic Trainer Hollyann Wettstein, she stated “An alternative to drinking energy drinks or sports drinks to fuel, is to fuel with food. Which is what athletes should always strive to do. Fueling with carbs, proteins, and fats– carbs specifically– metabolizes into glucose, and our energy systems run on that backbone of glucose. Athletes really cannot neglect the importance of carbs in their diets to fuel their performance.” 

For more information about NCAA substance regulations, visit the NCAA Division III Manual.