Why Celsius Energy Drinks Are Banned By The NCAA

Celsius energy drinks don't contain sugar, high fructose, or aspartame, but touted as an active lifestyle beverage that provides a fitness boost to professional and collegiate athletes, it does include a lot of caffeine derived from various natural sources. However, all that caffeine got Celsius banned by the National Collegiate Athletics Association, the organization that oversees American college athletics. The NCAA conducted a study showing that Celsius contained the stimulates ginseng, L-carnitine, taurine, and in particular guarana, which are all listed as illegal by the organization (via MARCA).

Under NCAA bylaws, stimulants are banned substances, and guarana is specifically cited as an example of a stimulant that is prohibited. Random drug testing is conducted to determine whether an athlete has been using banned stimulants. The aim is to prevent an athlete from using a substance that may enhance their performance during a game or give them a competitive edge. For its part, Celsius responded to the NCAA regulations regarding stimulants on its website.

Testing limits, potential health concerns

Celsius contends that it is important to clarify that the NCAA drug testing program "does not consider an athlete to test positive for caffeine if consumed responsibly." They further claim that the company's own serving recommendations that an individual, who does not drink more than two 12-ounce cans of Celsius daily, would "test under the NCAA's caffeine limits for most athletes." Additionally, the company note that no college athlete has ever been declared ineligible as a result of consuming Celsius. 

Some NCAA athletes across different collegiate sports have even spoken out against the Celsius ban specifically and the caffeine restrictions in general. According to Bobcat Multimedia, these athletes felt frustrated by the ban, believing energy drinks provided a much-needed pick-me-up in their hectic schedules. 

As far as actual health concerns, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that energy drinks can adversely impact the nervous system, raise blood pressure and heart rate, and increase breathing. Some individuals on TikTok believe Celsius might be dangerous, sharing some of the concerning side effects they experienced, which included heart palpitations. Others have said that drinking Celsius did not affect them in any negative way. As to whether guarana may enhance athletic performance, WebMD states that no existing scientific evidence supports such an assertion. Regardless of people's position on Celsius' perceived benefits or drawbacks, for the time being, the energy drink remains verboten in college sports.