Energy Drinks – What to Know to Stay Healthy and Safe
Energy Drinks have all but replaced coffee as the “go to drink” for a pick me up. Unfortunately, while the race for the ultimate power boost has been going on for a while – some brands are pushing limits a bit too far. That mean’s it’s up to you to know your limits, do your research, and understand what your body can handle.
When I was younger, I was addicted to caffeine and was a regular consumer of Red Bull. Back then things were pretty simple but today it seems like everyone has an energy drink and they are making all sorts of claims. Unfortunately, that means there are popular products that currently have active lawsuits due to claims of false advertising.
Unfortunately, the energy drink market in the United States is generally unregulated as a distinct product segment and can be packaged as “beverages” or “dietary supplements”. Depending on which path the manufacture takes then labeling and other requirements can differ. However, sometimes it’s the marketing itself that causes problems.
Read the Labels and Understand What’s Inside
Most energy drinks depend on sugar and caffeine for the boost it gives you. However, you’ll also see the following herbs, vitamins, and amino acids as well:
Creatine – this amino acid is very popular in many forms of energy and protein boosters and professional bodybuilders take it to boost performance in the gym. While research has shown an increase in athletic performance you will gain water weight as well. Since it is directly linked to bone and muscle growth, children should avoid this.
Ginsing – mostly safe but can lower blood sugar so could be dangerous if you are on diabetes medication.
Guarana – this extract can deliver twice the amount of caffeine vs coffee beans of the same weight. It is designed to stimulate weight loss and fight fatigue.
B Vitamins – any excess amounts can be quickly flushed from the body through water consumption
Taurine – an amino acid that can increase athletic performance and metabolism. This is generally safe up to 3,000 mg per day but can buildup if you consume many energy drinks or your drink has very high amounts.
Ginkgo Biloba – helps fight mental fatigue and improve memory. Some recent research suggests a link to thyroid and liver cancer in mice, so watch your consumption of this extract.
Carnitine – an amino acid that promotes endurance and fat burning but it is only effective if the body is deficient. Up to three grams per day should be safe.
You are likely to see all sorts of other ingredients in energy drinks as well. Be safe and if something sounds incredible then do your research and take a look online or talk with your doctor before trying it.
Monitor Sugar and Caffeine Intake
This is where most of the “danger” from energy drinks come from. Even favorites like Monster Energy, which most people accept as “safe” have massive amounts of sugar and caffeine. That doesn’t mean they are bad but you need to watch your consumption to stay at peak performance.
For instance, a typical 8oz cup of coffee might have 95mg of caffeine, a 16oz can of Monster has 160 mg. Others can have way more such as Spike that has more than 350 mg per 16oz can and Cocaine has 280mg per 8.4oz can!
The same story holds true for sugar though there’s less immediate danger when consuming too much sugar. For instance, Monster has 57g of sugar per 16oz can while typical soda contains about the same amount per volume. The challenge is that people seeking to stay awake will often drink multiple cans at a time and those numbers can build up quickly.
Energy Drinks Aren’t A Cure For Rest, Know When to Say When
Ultimately energy drinks aren’t a cure for a good old fashioned nap. You gotta let your body rest sometime. This will help repair muscle and bone tissue as well as letting your brain relax a bit too. Stress caused by stimulants can lead to other problems that you want to avoid.
Back in the day, I would drink a pot of coffee in the morning, a few refills of Mt Dew at lunch and then I was craving my Red Bulls in the afternoon to get me home. I gave up my caffeine addiction and now I generally know when to take a break.
If I’m tired I know it … and when I have energy I take advantage of it to be creative and build stuff.
Let’s all be a little smarter when it comes to energy drinks. They can be good for a boost but you should never go only on marketing and make sure to question any manufacturers claims that just don’t sound right.
- Written by James Hills
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