Energy Drinks: Powerful Energy or a Can of Bull?
Energy drinks are hot – there are over 600 options on the market, with names like Red Bull, Monster, Adrenaline, and Full Throttle. They can be found at gas stations, coffee shops, convenience stores, and grocery stores. But are they guaranteed to boost performance … or shrink your wallet at their high cost?
Here’s the deal:
Energy drinks are loaded with different ingredients, which are all purported to have different effects on the body. The “mainstay” of energy drinks is usually caffeine – and each typically provides the same as about 1 cup of coffee (with some equal to 3 cups of coffee!) and nearly double that of a 12 oz soda.
Caffeine is technically a drug. It is addicting. Relying on it for “energy” will result in continually needing more to get that same feeling. Caffeine can also speed up your heart rate, increase anxiety, and result in insomnia if consumed within hours before bed. None of those effects will help performance – in fact, they could hurt it. And if a person consumes too much caffeine, it ultimately can be dangerous.
Energy drinks are usually fairly high in sugar as well. Sugar is a carbohydrate – so, yes, this too can provide energy, but it will be short lived. Sugar is in and out of the bloodstream rather quickly. The right types of carbohydrates are necessary for optimal performance; sugar is not the right type!
With such a variety of drinks on the market, it’s impossible to summarize each ingredient in each product. Most have high levels of B vitamins, amino acids, herbs, and other vitamins and minerals, each with its own unique properties.
Another concern is that it is unknown how each of these ingredients mixes together. Combining these ingredients can be compared to putting together a football team, with athletes from all over the country, and playing a game the first day the athletes meet – the outcome is unclear, just like it is with the variety of ingredients in many of these products.
Here are some basics about the common ingredients:
- Taurine (an amino acid): plays an important role in muscle contraction (particularly the heart muscle) and in nervous system function. One study showed taurine and caffeine together increased the amount of blood ejected with each beat of the heart – caution should then be practiced if an athlete were to take this prior to training.
- B vitamins: B vitamins convert food to energy. They are likely added to these drinks to make them appear healthy.
- Guarana: a South African herb, which is an additional source of caffeine.
The truth is, food gives the real nutrients athletes need. Food is high-octane fuel for the body. To perform at your peak, you need to feed your body what it needs. And if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it!
To truly improve performance and be the best athlete you can be, focus on real foods – lean protein, like chicken, fish, and lean red meat; whole-grain carbohydrates, like oats, whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, fruits, and vegetables; and healthy fats, like olive oil, avocado, egg yolks, and others.
The future is ours – real athletes eat real foods!
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Christopher R. Mohr for the above article.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
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