Energy drinks have been a hot topic recently. With our busy lifestyles and lack of sleep, the promise of an instant energy burst becomes very tempting. The question is though, what is the price we have to pay for it? There has been a lot of debate recently about whether energy drinks are safe and about their possible side effects. We went on a quest to find out more about it and here is what we learned.
Energy drinks are usually non-alcoholic beverages containing vitamins and natural stimulants. Different companies produce energy drinks with different ingredients, however the one thing most of them have in common is caffeine. This is the ingredient that inspires your body to go into performance mode. The amount of caffeine in different brands of energy drinks varies from 80 to 150 mg per liter in each can (250 ml). Provided that the average daily dose of caffeine without any harm to your body is 300 mg, having two energy drinks a day pretty much uses up that limit. That sounds reasonable, but unfortunately we all know that we just don’t stop at 2 cans, especially since we also consume other products containing caffeine throughout the day such as tea and soda. The energy boost and the thought clarity effects do not last for too long. Right after feeling energized comes the collapse, which we usually try to compensate for with another energy drink, thus creating a vicious cycle. So what are the side effects of having too much caffeine? According to some studies, the excessive caffeine intake can lead to increased blood pressure, anxiety attacks, insomnia, and heartaches.
If you read the list of ingredients in energy drinks, you may assume that you are holding a vitamin cocktail. Guarana extract, ginseng root, ginkgo biloba extract, mateine, folic acid… It sounds very healthy and tempting, and most importantly when you drink the bright red liquid you feel like you are supplying your body with natural substances necessary for its functioning. In reality each ingredient is a great stimulant if taken separately. For instance ginseng effectively overcomes fatigue, depression and stress; mateine, found in South American tea-mate, helps overcome the feeling of hunger and helps lose weight; folic acid also known as vitamin B9 plays an important role in metabolism and synthesis of amino and nucleic acids, thus improving the brain function; guarana is famous for removing lactic acid from muscle tissues thus reducing the pain after intensive physical activities plus it contains lots of energizing caffeine in its leaves. Unfortunately, laboratory examinations prove that the amount of those substances in energy drinks is very minimal, and the rest is the chemical mix of caffeine and other components stimulating the nervous system. Therefore, it is useless to count on energy drinks to make you healthier. To gain at least somewhat noticeable effect you would have to drink them by the bucket, which as we discussed previously is in fact harmful for your health.
The main two ingredients of energy drinks are caffeine and taurine. These are the key elements that are supposed to “energize” our brain and body according to the plan of energy drinks creators. But practice shows different. The French scientists studied the composition and effects of energy drinks and came to the conclusion that the main ingredients of tonics do not go together and cause ambiguous body reactions. For instance, taurine amino acid, which is responsible for the immune system, is very dangerous for the heart muscle if combined with any dose of caffeine exceeding 90 mg. So the first component of energy drinks abruptly relaxes the nervous system and lowers the blood pressure, while the second one on the contrary increases it thus creating the oxygen lack due to the blood vessels constriction. As the result, you achieve the effect similar if you take a shower and alternate extremely hot water with extremely cold. This dangerous excited and agitated condition is exactly what we take for briskness and energy. Because of this ingredients incompatibility energy drinks are sold only at drugs stores by prescription in Norway, Denmark, and France. They are only sold to those who don’t have any contra-indications such as heart illness, hypertension, insomnia, or diabetes. Energy drinks are also banned for children under 14, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. For a contrast, here in America a 12-year-old could freely buy and consume any brand of energy drink. We all remember the incident with a teenage boy who had over 10 energy drinks before his baseball game and had a heart attack. It was actually proven that his death was caused by those energy drinks he consumed.
Caffeine contained in guarana causes addiction and you are tempted to consume energy drinks in large quantities. Besides, as mentioned before, energy drinks put us in an energy trap. We feel like the energy necessary to complete that final task is in that can, but in reality it is only a key to the door of inner resources of the nervous system. In other words energy drinks don’t provide us with energy, they suck it out of us. We all know that the first several hours after having an energy drink we don’t feel tired at all, our mood improves and we feel a burst of energy, but afterwards we feel the decline of the same duration, and our body applies huge efforts to restore its normal state. This happens for a very simple reason. Ginseng and guarana free up the energy from the untouchable reserves stored in liver, muscles and fat deposits for a rainy day. By drinking energy drinks we artificially increase the metabolism carelessly wasting what our body has been storing up for years and what we would normally use in a stress situation.
There are other much healthier ways of charging up your body with energy. Don’t sleep too long on the weekends. If you get out of your usual schedule you confuse your body. Go to sleep the same time you would normally do during weekdays. Good sleep is the enemy of fatigue. Eat a healthy breakfast. If you don’t have breakfast at all, in just a few hours you will feel sleepy. Eat something filling and low in calories like an oatmeal or cereal for breakfast every day. Try to eat more of the “brighter” foods. Red and orange fruit such as tomatoes, oranges, carrots and so on, will provide your body with a much healthier form of energy. And finally drink more water. It plays a vital role in metabolism. A couple of glasses of water per day will make sure that you still have energy, even later in the day.