Becca Stegmayer, a junior exercise and sports science major and student athlete, presented her capstone research project at the Piedmont Symposium on April 14. Her topic of investigation is one that unites our divided world—our dependency on caffeine.
“I see people drink caffeine every day in the gym and before games or practice. I was curious to see if what they were doing was actually benefiting them or a complete waste,” said Stegmayer.
Although the Symposium can seem like just another assignment at the end of the semester, Stegmayer’s research encompassed the very essence of what the symposium is trying to instill in Piedmont University students— an inquisitive disposition of the world around them. In fact, studies show that engaging in research projects creates more resilient students who persist in their education and adapt flexible learning patterns.
“Symposium presentations allow students to dive deeper into a subject that is of greater interest or explore something they want to do in a future career,” said Abbey Dondanville associate dean of health sciences. “Preparing content as an expert and presenting to peers also builds confidence.”
Stegmayer’s research looked more specifically at the effect that caffeine had on the anerobic performance of student athletes. Every movement that your body makes requires energy. However, when you push your body in such a way that it cannot create energy through the use of oxygen, the anerobic system comes to the rescue by pulling energy from energy stores within the muscles.
The benefits of anerobic exercise are extensive. Repeated anerobic exercises leads to greater endurance. This training style results in stronger bones and muscles. Additionally, your body learns how to utilize the oxygen that it does receive in the most efficient way possible while improving mood and promoting fat loss.
“As a student athlete, I rely heavily on caffeine to get me through long practices,” said Piedmont University softball player Lexi Chitwood. “I rely on caffeine even more when I know I am going to have a late-night studying.”
Chitwood is not the only student who depends on caffeine to aid in success on and off the field. At this point in the semester, it seems as if caffeine is coursing through the veins of students and professors’ bodies alike.
Although Stegmayer’s study yielded insignificant results, she fully believes that further research would prove otherwise. She faced many confounds within her experiment: caffeine tolerance in individual participants, small sampling size and lack of financial support. However, Stegmayer is confident that caffeine, if used in the correct manner, could be pivotal in enhancing sports performance.
“If athletes want to drink caffeine drinks, then they should understand the most efficient way to do so and how it can affect them,” said Stegmayer.
Caffeine, like most things in life, is not bad in and of itself. However, it is imperative to understand how this stimulant impacts each of us individually, said Stegmayer. A person can become addicted to caffeine like one could become addicted to any substance. Although the correct use can increase productivity, overuse can mask signs of physical exhaustion, dehydration, and improper diet among other things.
“The USFDA does not regulate the amount of caffeine in energy drinks, said Stegmayer “So it’s up to you to be conscious of your caffeine intake.”