CFL defensive tackle Étienne Légaré knows first hand how much of a negative impact energy drinks can have on young athletes.
It was this message he shared with students at École la Prairie in Red Deer on Friday at lunch time.
It was all part of a campaign run by the Fédération du Sport Francophone de l’Alberta (FSFA) encouraging students in French immersion schools to choose water over energy drinks.
The campaign revolved around a design contest, in which students from across the province were asked to come up with a concept for a bottle, advertising the advantages of water. École la Prairie Grade 8 student Joshua Doyon’s design was chosen as the best design in Alberta out of more than 500 entrants.
“I just tried to make it different,” said Doyon, who derived inspiration for his blue and green can from playing outdoors. “I learned about how energy drinks are not really good for you before sports and it’s better to drink water.”
For winning, Doyon received a $200 gift certificate to Sport Chek and the design was printed on 160 water bottles.
The slogan on his label was “C’est l’énergie sans sucre” translates into “Energy without sugar.”
Stéphanie Trottier, communications and development officer for FSFA, said this is the second year they have done the program in Alberta. The goal is to make kids think about what they are buying and putting in their bodies, an uphill battle considering the big money pumped into advertising by energy drink companies. According to Alberta Health, energy drinks account for $300 million in sales in Canada a year.
“(Kids) still think energy drinks are good for you because they see athletes drinking them or are sponsored by them,” said Trottier. “I hope we have an impact over the long term, so that when they go to the store that they choose something else.”
Alberta Health says the biggest issue in drinking energy drinks, especially for athletes, is it increases the risk for dehydration due to the large amounts of caffeine. Other side effects include heart palpitations, anxiety, upset stomach, a temporary increase in blood pressure and insomnia. It can also increase irritability and make you “jittery.”
As part of being the winning school, FSFA brought in Légaré to speak during the lunch hour about his career and why he now chooses to avoid energy drinks.
“I drink those drinks a little bit when I was in college, and it was not a good experience for me,” said Légaré. “I realized I didn’t need those drinks to get ready for the game because all those side effects were just too much to deal with.”
He says the best option is just water and sleep.
“If you feel tired, there’s no shortcut to getting rid of that feeling,” he said. “If you’re committed to a sport, you should be committed to do all the right things to getting ready for your game.”
Légaré was drafted in the first round (second overall) by the Toronto Argonauts in the 2009 CFL Draft out of Laval. In 2008, he received the J.P. Metras Trophy as the outstanding down lineman in Canadian Interuniversity Sport football. The six-foot-three, 268-pound defensive tackle has since played for the Edmonton Eskimos and last year with the Calgary Stampeders. He is now a free agent, but says he is considering all of his options, even maybe walking away from football and using his degree in sports intervention and his diploma instrumentation and control.