• Category: Blog
  • Published Dated: June 17, 2013
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energy drink

Do you want to supercharge your energy?  How about unleashing your inner beast or feeling burst of energy, enough to “give you wings?”  Sounds nice, and obviously there is a colossal market for energy drinks and pills, but who, if anyone, should be taking them?

My first exposure to what this stuff can do takes me back to my time as an undergrad at Utah State.  For several years, while at the university, my husband worked as a treadmill manufacturing steel technician.  For him this meant leaving for work at 3:30 each morning and working twelve hour, labor-laden shifts, all while attending school full-time, and participating actively in the ROTC and student clubs on campus.  You guessed it . . . he didn’t sleep enough (not at all uncommon for college students!).  One day at work he was really dragging and one of his coworkers told him to try a stimulant he had (not illegal; don’t go there).  Let’s just say that several hours later when I saw him he was basically jumping off of the walls, running up and down stairs (and then up and down again!) because he could, and was totally out of control crazy.  What scared him were the heart palpitations that came with the craziness.

A few years back when 5-Hour Energy was a new product, I was amazed at how many of my coworkers on a large personal training staff were depending on the stuff to get through long days with back-to-back clients, including some who came very early in the mornings and others who met late in the evenings.  I clearly remember explaining that the crazy rash some of them were getting after taking it was Niacin Flush from a huge dose of vitamin B3.

What is in most energy drinks?  The most common ingredients are caffeine, sugar, taurine, and vitamins niacin (B3), B6, and B12.  I’m convinced that the caffeine and sugar are the real players when it comes to energy.   Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and makes the body alert, although the expenses may include an increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and dehydration.  Just two ounces of 5-Hour Energy contain the same amount of caffeine as two cups of coffee, 200 mg.  That sets a pretty high threshold for stimulation.  A healthy adult can often drink up to 400 mg without major side-effects, however, it is not uncommon  for people to experience headaches, agitation, difficulty concentrating, heart palpitations, insomnia, hyperactivity, and nausea with 200 mg and more.

Can energy drinks lead to death?  I know this sounds pretty extreme.  There actually have been reports of deaths, including heart attacks, that might have been associated with consuming energy drinks, although this cannot be proven.  They are definitely not meant for children.

Here’s the bottom line:  The energy drink market is not well regulated and isn’t a guaranteed safe market for regular consumption.  The real question is why do you need energy stimulants?  Make sure you’re not using them as a cover-up for not taking good care of your health.  How much sleep are you getting, consistently?  How is your nutrition?  Hydration?  Even if you don’t experience scary symptoms, be smart, and be intuitive with what your body really needs.  Even a ten minute power walk, consistently getting enough sleep, and eating small and frequent meals, can make a big difference in daily energy levels.

Caffeine has been shown to be a beneficial stimulant for athletes to perform at their best.  The trick is to avoid overdoing it.  Work with a registered dietitian to learn what is best for you and your sport and your life.

Do you regularly consume energy drinks?  How do you keep your energy levels up?



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