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Highs and Lows of Energy Drinks

You see them neatly arranged on the shelves in convenience and grocery stores. Television commercials and photos in magazines show people looking happy, athletic and energetic just drinking them.  Their marketing strategies include claims of increased performance, ability to focus and feeling energized. But I am just a little skeptical.  Do energy drinks really do all this? Are they really as healthy as they claim? After looking into it, I now see that not all energy drinks are created equal…Have you looked at the list of ingredients? Most brands include a whole lot of caffeine, sweeteners, vitamins, amino acids, herbal stimulants plus a bunch of ingredients I can’t even pronounce! The amounts and combinations of ingredients are different from one brand to the next.  The effects seem to vary depending on the amount in the drink, how much is consumed, whether the person has eaten recently, as well as how much the person weighs.  Many people say that one energy drink gives them a boost of energy and helps them concentrate. At the same time, some people  are sensitive to some of these ingredients and can experience rather uncomfortable side effects.

The Highs: Energy drinks can increase alertness, focus, cognitive and physical performance, for short periods of time.

The Lows:

  • What goes up must come down. The quicker the boost, the more exhausted we get after it wears off.
  • The high caffeine content (average 70mg-200mg) can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, as well as nervousness, headache, nausea and sleeplessness.
  • Guarana, a common ingredient, adds additional caffeine, speeds up the brain’s activity and may cause nausea, dizziness and anxiousness. Guarana has not been evaluated by the FDA for safety, effectiveness or purity.
  • Mixing with alcohol can be extremely dangerous as you might not feel impaired due to the caffeine, although your blood alcohol level may be high, which can result in lapses in judgment, thinking and coordination.
  • There is a serious risk of dehydration and excessive strain on your heart if used before or after exercise.
  • One full can of the drink may be the equivalent of 2 servings, which increases the risks of side effects.

Now when I’m at the store checking out energy drinks, I look at the ingredients more closely, and I think twice about when and what else I am drinking it with. Sometimes, I even consider healthier alternatives, like getting enough sleep and a bit more exercise to give me the energy I am looking for.