You’ve watched the commercial where the buff athlete shakes the sweat from his head and grabs a can of Big Boost (I made up the name, but you get the idea), takes a drink and looks refreshed and ready to conquer the world. Can energy drinks be healthy and do they actually work? Most energy drinks work because they contain caffeine and deliver it with sugar. In fact, some have the amount of sugar that equals 13.5 teaspoons. While many say they have other ingredients to boost your energy, it’s still the caffeine and sugar that does the trick.
Even though drinking too many energy drinks is bad, it does have some potentially redeeming qualities.
I’ve seen clients come into the gym touting an energy drink with a second one ready in their gym bag. In my opinion, it’s just plain unhealthy. Not only are they spiking their sugar levels and predisposing their bodies for a roller coaster of sugar highs followed by lows, there’s a chance they’re drinking even more throughout the day. That’s not good and can lead to caffeine overdose, plus blood sugar problems. However, the same is true of coffee. Studies show that energy drinks do work at boosting your energy and making you more alert.
There are some benefits from energy drinks.
Most energy drinks contain more than just caffeine and sugar, they also contain vitamins and nutrients, including taurine. Taurine is known for its ability to improve blood low to the heart and boost oxygen levels, help people function better when they have higher levels of a stimulant, such as caffeine and regulate heartbeat. While the body does create its own taurine, there are studies indicating that production is often reduced under stress, such as illness, injury and even physical exertion—such as working out. There are also B-vitamins, small amounts of A, C and E and other nutrients found in these drinks that could prove beneficial to the body.
There are better ways to get those benefits.
If you’re eating healthy, all those extra nutrients will be excreted through your elimination system, leaving you paying only for the caffeine in the drink. Grab a cup of Jo from the office coffee pot or make your own at home and carry it in a thermal travel mug. In the summer or when you want a cool drink, iced coffee in that mug will be refreshing. Get your nutrition through a healthy diet and if you must, a supplement.
- Don’t discount water as a viable alternative to energy drinks. Often that sleepiness and exhaustion you feel is just dehydration. Water hydrates faster and doesn’t have the extra calories.
- Green tea has caffeine, but also has other healthy flavonoids to bring even more benefit. Iced green tea is refreshing and has 0 calories if you don’t add sugar.
- Too much caffeine from overindulgence in coffee or energy drinks can cause jangled nerves and irregular heartbeat. It also can interact with medications, so always check with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Just like soft drinks, energy drinks can pack on the pounds without providing significant nutrients. One 16 oz can of Monster Energy Drink contains 210 calories. You could opt for a healthy snack and a bottle of water and intake far fewer calories. It’s all about weighing the benefits vs the drawbacks.