Celsius and Other Energy Drinks Not Banned by the NCAADecember 16, 2022
CELSIUS drinks are not banned by the NCAA as has been mistakenly reported in several articles and in social media. Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation has been shared suggesting that CELSIUS and guarana are subject to a “total ban” under NCAA regulations or that ingredients like ginseng, guarana, L-carnitine and taurine are “illegal banned stimulants” according to the NCAA and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). They are not. The information provided here aims to provide accurate information that NCAA student athletes, or others, can rely on when considering CELSIUS or other energy drinks that may contain caffeine, guarana, or the other ingredients highlighted.
- Caffeine is on the list of NCAA Banned Substances but it is not banned completely, rather consumption must be limited. A student athlete must have more than 15 micrograms per milliliter (ug/ml, parts per million) of caffeine in urine to test positive according to the 2022-2023 NCAA Drug Testing Program.
- 500 mg of caffeine is needed to exceed the 15 ug/ml NCAA caffeine threshold according to Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN), College and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA) and NCAA Sport Science Institute. Metabolism can vary and lower amounts may be a concern for some student athletes.
- The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) position stand on caffeine and exercise performance states 10 mg/kg (4.55 mg/lb) body weight of caffeine ingested overs several hours is needed to reach the 12 ug/ml urine threshold used by WADA. This corresponds to 500-1,365 mg for athletes in the 110-300 pound range.
- CELSIUS contains 200 mg total caffeine per serving, including caffeine from guarana or other ingredients, and suggests a limit of 2 servings per day, or 400 mg of caffeine (or for CELSIUS HEAT®, 1 serving per day for 300 mg total caffeine per day). When used as directed, the caffeine provided by CELSIUS drinks is below the suggested NCAA risk level of 500 mg and in line with the 400 mg amount the FDA suggests to avoid negative side effects.
- In a 2009 press release, the NCAA confirmed that although “caffeine and guarana seed extract (a caffeine source) . . . are included on the NCAA’s drug-testing list of banned substances[,]” the NCAA “limit on the amount of caffeine . . . was set to allow ordinary consumption of caffeine-containing beverages, such as cola, tea or coffee.”
- A statistical study in 2019 evaluated caffeine levels in 7,844 urine samples from elite athletes and showed that less than 0.87% violated the 12 ug/ml WADA threshold, which is stricter than the 15 ug/ml NCAA threshold.
- Excessive use of caffeine that may be present in a variety of food, drinks, or dietary supplements can put a student athlete at risk of a positive drug test. Sources include coffee, tea, guarana, cola, yerba mate, chocolate.
Guarana, Ginseng, L-carnitine, Taurine are not Banned by NCAA or WADA
- Guarana is on the NCAA Banned Substances list only as an example of caffeine; guarana itself is not banned. Consumption of guarana must be limited along with other sources of caffeine like coffee, tea or chocolate.
- Guarana, ginseng, L-carnitine, and taurine are all legal dietary supplement ingredients in the U.S. and they are not specifically banned by the NCAA, WADA, or any other sport drug testing program.
- The NCAA, WADA, and other sport drug testing bodies do not test for ginseng, L-carnitine, or taurine and they do not test for guarana, coffee, tea, or other specific sources of caffeine.
Energy Drinks – NCAA Sponsorships, Bylaw and Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) Endorsements
- Energy drinks containing caffeine or guarana are impermissible for NCAA personnel to provide to student athletes under NCAA Division I Bylaw 188.8.131.52 Nutritional Supplements but they are not prohibited when used in moderation and can be consumed by student athletes.
- Energy drink brands that contain caffeine and guarana cannot be NCAA sponsors but they can provide name, image, likeness (NIL) endorsements to individual student athletes.
The NCAA has identified Drug Free Sport AXIS™ (AXIS) as a resource to answer student athlete questions about banned substances, dietary supplements and ingredients that appear on product labels.
More information provided in the BSCG Caffeine and Guarana NCAA Drug Testing Fact Sheet for Student Athletes.
This article was requested by and paid for by CELSIUS®. The opinions expressed in this report are BSCG’s own