International cricket grounds in England are dotted with brushed metal containers on the edge of the boundary advertising the energy drink Red Bull.
The drink claims in its advertising to "give you wings" and England Captain Kevin Pietersen is on record as drinking a can before going out to bat. Its big business for the companies that sell them but do energy drinks really help your cricket?
What's in energy drinks?
Different drinks have different ingredient lists, however most rely on caffeine, sugar or a combination of both to give you the energy boost you want.
- Caffeine. This stimulant has been shown in studies to provide a boost to concentration, alertness and endurance.
- Sugar. We use blood sugar (glycogen) as one way of supplying energy to our muscles, especially over long periods. Replenishing these stores by eating sugar staves of fatigue.
Other ingredients can include Taurine and Glucuronolactone which have been marketed as helping boost energy without conclusive scientific evidence.
Do energy drinks help cricketers?
As is often the case with questions like this, the answer is: it depends. It's really up to you to look at the facts and decide which way to go.
There are some clear benefits to energy drinks.
The first is convenience. Cans and bottles are easy to store and carry around as you play. They can be brought out at drinks breaks or stashed on the boundary edge for the fast bowlers.
They have a proven performance enhancing element in the caffeine and sugar as instant glycogen replenishment. But the real question is: do they enhance cricket performance?
The jury is still out.
You see, most caffeine studies have been done on endurance athletes. Scientists put someone on a bike or a treadmill and make them go nonstop until they can't go any further. The famous "33% longer" Lucozade Sport study is like this: Those on Lucozade Sport energy drink took 33% longer to get tired.
The trouble is that cricket is not an endurance sport.
Yes, it takes place over a long period but in a stop-start manner with quick, explosive moves and long rest periods. That means fatigue is more likely to come from your subconscious brain taking over earlier than it needs to in order to protect you from overdoing it. This is called the "Central Governor" Theory pioneered by Physiologist Tim Noakes.
If the Central Governor theory is true, all the sugar and caffeine in those drinks makes no difference.
So you can see how it gets confusing. If the scientists are not sure, should you be so ready to believe the manufacturers of the drinks? That's a decision only you can make.
Can I get any other boost?
It's another "yes and no" answer to this question.
There does seem to be a boost in concentration and reaction time with certain doses of caffeine. Whether this is enough to make a difference to you over the course of an innings or match is debatable.
Plus, if you take too much you can end up in trouble. You can get caffeine jitters which are distracting and your mind can easily switch from excellent focus to no focus.
The dose varies depending on how sensitive you are to the stimulant, so if you do choose to experiment with these benefits then err on the side of too little rather than too much.
So give it to me straight: Should cricketers drink energy drinks or not?
If it was up to me I would say don't bother.
Physiologically they may offer some benefits over and above water but there are other proven paths like a healthy diet and regular exercise that have a bigger effect.
If you are struggling with your weight they also contain a lot of calories which could be railroading your goal to lose fat.
That said, many people like the taste and get a big psychological boost from the idea they are having their performance enhanced. This can't be ignored as people can do amazing things when they think they are getting help.
So if you like energy drinks and you think they help then carry on. They may be or they may not boost your energy but that doesn't really matter. Otherwise, especially if your goal is weight loss, steer clear.