What are “Energy Drinks”?
Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages with the addition of so-called ‘energy enhancing’ ingredients. Energy drinks claim to increase alertness and improve mental and physical performance. There are different variety of brands that are mainly available at supermarkets, convenience stores, vending machines, and even bars. These drinks contain important amounts of caffeine and sugar. Caffeine fuels most energy drinks “boost”.
The other ingredients in energy drinks are generally herbs (botanicals), amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Some herbal ingredients commonly found in energy drinks are taurine, guarana, green tea and ginseng. Research on these ingredients is ongoing, but evidence of health benefits is limited at this time. Guarana contains caffeine. Taurine is an amino acid naturally found in meat and fish with no special benefits. Green tea extract contains caffeine. Studies of ginseng have not shown any benefits. Experts recommend herbal ingredients to be consumed in moderation, if at all, until we have more information about their safety.
Are Energy Drinks Dangerous?
People definitely vary in their sensitivity to caffeine. Most experts agree that consuming 300 mg of caffeine (about three cups of coffee) per day is fine for most adults. However, there are important differences between a cup of coffee and a can of energy drink. The first is that a lot of energy drinks contain at least twice the amount of caffeine in a typical cup of coffee. For example, Facedrink has three times the caffeine as a cup of coffee. The second is that while your average Joe drinks his coffee over a newspaper, your average rock star chugs his can over two more cans of Rockstar.
Moreover, energy drink labels do not include the caffeine amount naturally found in some of the herbal or tea ingredients. Thus, when more than one can is consumed in a day, it’s easy to drink too much caffeine and as you can imagine anything in high doses is bad for you.
What are the Side Effects of Energy Drinks?
Although energy drinks provide an initial jolt and increase alertness, there are evident down sides to high caffeine and sugar consumption. If you regularly consume large volumes of energy drinks, you may experience increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, dehydration, sleeplessness, irritability and increased urination. The combination of heart palpitations and high blood pressure has also been proven to cause anxiety.
A Regular 16 ounce can has 50 to 60 grams, or 13 to 15 teaspoons of sugar! Sugar just adds calories, and unnecessary calorie intake may result in weight gain. In addition, research shows that a high sugar intake may make it more difficult for the body to lose weight.
Also, some energy “shots” contain an excess amount of niacin (Vitamin B3). A recommended daily intake of niacin is 14 mg for women and 16 mg for men. Energy shots contain 30 mg in one 2-ounce serving. Niacin intake at about 35 mg or above may cause flushing, and higher doses may cause adverse health problems.
Caffeine and Adolescents
Children have no need for caffeine in their diets. Parents must avoid giving energy or other caffeinated drinks to children. Students can consume energy drinks to stay up late or study, but they always neglect to notice the total amount of caffeine they get in a day. Studies have clearly shown that high caffeine intake in adolescents can result in serious difficulty sleeping and tiredness in the morning, as well as the previously mentioned side effects. Adolescents should understand that energy drinks are no substitute for sleep and rest. Moreover, it is important for teens and their parents to control caffeine consumption and look for healthier options for staying energized, such as getting adequate rest and physical activity.
Do Not Mix Energy Drinks and Alcohol
Never mix alcohol with energy drinks. When these two beverages are consumed together it greatly increases the possibility of dehydration and reduces a person’s ability to realize they are intoxicated. Indeed, the energy drink masks the effects of alcohol therefore this combination has adverse health effects and inhibits good decision-making.
What’s a Better Way to Feel Energized?
- Eat well. Eat a balanced diet; chances are your energy levels will not need any extra boost!
- Get plenty of sleep. When your body gets the rest it needs, you’re less likely to feel drowsy during the day. Most teens need 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night and most adults need 7 to 8 hours. You will be more alert and concentrate better with adequate sleep.
- Just drink water to stay hydrated. Dehydration is going to make you feel weak and it is dangerous for your health.
- Move it. When you feel yourself growing tired while studying or working, go for a 10-minute walk or do some exercises to make you more alert. It’s known to all that regular physical activities will also improve your energy level. Children need 50 minutes of physical activity each day and adults need at least 20 minutes.
- Drink coffee and/or tea in moderation. Coffee and tea both contain caffeine. You can try having just one 8-ounce cup and see if your body really needs more caffeine. You may want another cup, but you certainly won’t need an energy drink!
- Cut back on caffeine slowly. If you find yourself dependent on highly caffeinated drinks, just reduce your consumption progressively.