Energy Drinks: Just What Are You Guzzling?

Energy drinks are a rapidly growing market. Red Bull started the craze in 1997. Now there are hundreds of brands on the market. Every major soft drink manufacturer has an energy drink in their brand. Even local soft drink companies have developed energy drinks to add to their line. Today’s products come in flashy cans with exotic names that entice the buyer with a promise of energy overload.

Names like Red Bull, Rockstar, Monster Energy, Rage, Full Throttle, Pimp Juice, Fixx, and even Cocaine are designed to shock and catch the buyers attention. It is no accident that these products are very popular with teens and young adults. They are marketed to the extreme athletes, college students, and high school (and middle school) aged children.

Energy Drink Ingredients

Energy drinks vary by brand and product, however the two common ingredients in the majority of them are sugar and caffeine. These are the basic components in the energy produced by these drinks. The sugar is converted to glucose and the caffeine is a stimulant, increasing central nervous system stimulation. The actual amount of caffeine in each product varies. Some products like Whoop Ass and Airforce Nutrisoda Energize contain only 50 milligrams of caffeine while Cocaine has 280 milligrams, and some extreme products, like Wired X505, have over 500 milligrams. To put these number into perspective, an 8 ounce cup of strong, black coffee has about 130 milligrams of caffeine. Some brands are starting to offer no-sugar, lower calorie choices. Of course, this limits the available energy because there is no extra glucose introduced into the energy cycle.

There are other ingredients common in most energy drinks, as well. Those ingredients include taurine, ginseng, vitamins, green tea, creatine, and guarana. Taurine is found in skeletal muscle. It is a cell volumizer and mimics the effects of insulin. This helps shuttle the glucose into the cells for energy production. Ginseng, green tea, and guarana are all natural, herbal stimulants. They act to enhance the stimulant effect of caffeine. Often they provide a synergistic effect with the caffeine, increasing the overall stimulation. The vitamins are added to help the metabolic processes involved in energy production (and also for the marketing potential, and perceived health benefits.) Creatine increases the amount of free floating phosphate molecules needed for the ATP-PC energy system. However, it is doubtful that one drink will provide enough to truly impact immediate energy levels.

Energy Drink Effects

Energy drinks do cause an energy spike and short term energy boost. They can increase alertness, improve reaction time, temporarily reduce fatigue, and increase energy levels. The lower calorie, no-sugar versions can offer an energy boost without the extra calories. Negative effects of energy drink consumption vary by caffeine, sugar, and other ingredient content but may include; anxiousness, jitters, nervousness, irregular heartbeat, rapid heart beat, increased blood pressure, headache, stomach discomfort, nausea, insomnia, dehydration, and a “crash” after the initial energy surge passes. The excess calories, especially in the form of sugar, can lead to weight gain, as well.

The energy drink market is crowded with options. They do provide a short term energy boost, but there are also natural energy boosters that might be more beneficial. Adequate, quality sleep each night, a nutritious diet, and plenty of exercise all provide long term energy boosts. For short term boosts, a blast of cool (water or air), a short break in the fresh air, sunlight, a brisk walk or other short burst of exercise, and even coffee or tea are better alternatives in the long run. Energy drinks are advertised as a necessity to get through a grueling workout or a long day, but the negative side effects may outweigh the immediate benefit. As with anything, energy drinks in moderation may not be harmful, but large doses can lead to serious consequences.

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