The Truth About “Energy Drinks”
Over the last 10 years or so, energy drinks have become wildly popular. They promise boundless energy, sharper mental focus and a quick way to beat a demanding lifestyle.
But do these drinks deliver all they promise? And are they as safe as they claim? The answers seem to be “no” and “no”… but not always for the reasons you might expect.
Let’s take a look at these popular drinks, and discover what all that advertising hype is hiding.
Most energy drinks are loaded with sugar and caffeine. Will they give you a buzz? You bet! But you know what happens with sugar… That sugar high is followed a little while later by a crash. And you end up lower than you were before you had the sugar.
These drinks are like liquid candy bars with some stimulants mixed in. The stimulants help lessen the sugar crash, but they’re not really giving you energy.
That’s because the caffeine in energy drinks acts on your nervous system. Basically, it has you running on reserves. You’re not really energized… you’re doped up.
And some of these drinks are loaded with caffeine – as much as 505 mg per bottle. That’s about the same amount as 5 cups of brewed coffee.
Of course, caffeine has a couple of other problems, too. The more you drink, the more you’ll need to feel its “energizing” effect. And when you don’t get your caffeine, there’s a terrible crash. Caffeine “withdrawal” can involve extremely painful headaches.
Plus, researchers at Johns Hopkins University say that caffeine dependence and withdrawal are on the rise. And so is caffeine intoxication,1 which involves nausea, headache and heart palpitations. And that’s just in mild cases.
Many energy drinks also contain guarana, taurine and ginseng – all proven to have positive effects on energy or attention. But a team at Nova Southeastern University says the amounts used in energy drinks are too small to have any beneficial effect. They also found the amounts of sugar and caffeine in many of these drinks are high enough to pose a health risk.2
To combat the sugar complaints, at least one company offers a sugar-free version of their energy drink. Canadian researchers tested it on a group of young adults. The results? Drinking this “energy drink” didn’t help people run any longer than drinking a placebo.3
In a study on college students, biologists found another effect of at least some energy drinks. They may increase tolerance to pain.4 and this could lead people to push themselves beyond a safe point when exercising.
Finally, other studies have found that energy drinks may raise blood pressure,5 and are harder on tooth enamel than sugary cola.6 just two more reasons to avoid these high-priced beverages.
So what should you do for energy?
Get plenty of B vitamins, which are involved in most energy processes in your body. You may benefit from CoQ10, too. This co-enzyme is necessary for producing energy at the cellular level.
If you need a mid-afternoon boost, try a handful of nuts. They’re a high-energy snack that’s loaded with nutrition… and they promote heart-health, too.7
Best Life Herbals Wellness Team
Best Life Herbals
1 Reissig CJ, et al. Caffeinated energy drinks–a growing problem. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2009 Jan 1;99(1-3):1-10. Epub 2008 Sep 21.
2 Clauson KA, et al. Safety issues associated with commercially available energy drinks. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2008 May-Jun;48(3):e55-63; quiz e64-7.
3 Candow DG, et al. Effect of sugar-free Red Bull energy drink on high-intensity run time-to-exhaustion in young adults. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Jul;23(4):1271-5.
4 Ragsdale FR, et al. Effect of Red Bull energy drink on cardiovascular and renal function. Amino Acids. 2010 Apr;38(4):1193-200. Epub 2009 Aug 4.
5 Bichler A, et al. A combination of caffeine and taurine has no effect on short term memory but induces changes in heart rate and mean arterial blood pressure. Amino Acids. 2006 Nov;31(4):471-6. Epub 2006 May 15.
6 Owens BM. The potential effects of pH and buffering capacity on dental erosion. Gen Dent. 2007 Nov-Dec;55(6):527-31.
7 Kris-Etherton PM, et al. Nuts and their bioactive constituents: effects on serum lipids and other factors that affect disease risk1,2 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 70, No. 3, 504S-511S, September 1999.