The Effects of Energy Drink Ingestion on Technical Skill Performance: Examining the Arousal-Performance Relationship

Conrad Woolsey, United States Sports Academy, USA

Theme: Elite performance

Poster Number: 18

Program ID: POS-1

Presentation: October 3, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


Previous energy drink (ED) studies have reported improved performance on variables such as reaction time or power output. However, on technical motor skills involving the coordination and sequencing of movements and timing, improvements on individual variables do not necessarily result in optimal performance. Theories on the arousal-performance relationship (Inverted-U, Hanin’s Zones of Optimal Functioning, Catastrophe) indicate experienced athletes are better able to maintain or achieve optimal performance of technical skills with higher levels of arousal. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of ED ingestion on technical skill performance relative to experience. METHODS: This IRB-approved double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study used a counterbalanced design to test ED ingestion (16oz) on flight skill. Twenty-eight pilots were grouped by hours of flight experience based on the 40h minimum requirement for a private pilot license (FAA, 2012). Performance was measured on ability to maintain straight-and-level-flight, completion of complex-turns and an emergency checklist (EC). Each flight scenario was recorded across two distinct Fidelity Motus 622i full-motion flight simulator sessions. RESULTS: Comparing ED vs. placebo, overall performance (measured in total degrees-off) declined (p<0.0001) when testing straight-and-level-flight (53.1±3.9 vs. 31.9±5.0, respectively). There was no significant difference (p>0.05) in time (seconds) to complete complex-turns with ED vs. placebo (68.8s±5.0 vs. 63.3s±3.9) and no difference (p>0.05) in % accuracy in the completion of the EC with ED vs. placebo (90.0±6.2 vs. 95.0±3.4, p>0.05). Correlations for #hours of experience vs. EC were r=0.29 for placebo and r=-0.31 for ED. Therefore, experience and performance on the EC indicated a positive performance relationship when using the placebo and negative relationship when using the ED. CONCLUSIONS: Energy drinks may reduce overall performance on precision timing, coordination and sequencing of movements. Results suggest ED increase arousal and affect motor skill performance relative to flight experience and complexity of the task.

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