Energy drinks are all the rage lately. You can’t go anywhere without finding them…including 7 Eleven stores. And there seems to be an endless variety to choose from. Today I have some pros and cons of these “high-voltage in the can” products. And some serious questions answered about them. The first and most often question asked is…are these energy drinks doing more harm than good? I do think there’s a time and place when energy drinks can be useful, especially during high exercise moments when you can become extremely dehydrated. But on the flipside these drinks pack in quite a lot of calories with their loaded high fructose corn syrup. Because of that, these drinks are definitely not something I’d put into the “everyday consumption” category. I also think there are better alternatives for a natural energy boost. Let’s take a closer look. Energy drinks are often just soda pop with some extra caffeine and energy-boosting nutrients added. Because they are loaded with high fructose corn syrup, drinking these drinks on a regular basis can have a number of detrimental health effects including:
- Weight gain and obesity
- An increased risk of diabetes
- Increased levels of glycation, which ages your body
- A higher risk of heart disease
That being said, I don’t think having an energy drink now and again is harmful. There are certainly times when I’m up working late and not getting proper sleep. Or busy days when I’m not eating or drinking correctly and an energy drink is perfect to keep my electrolytes in balance. However, when it comes to extra energy, I prefer to get my boost from more natural sources. Natural Ways to Increase Your Energy Personally, I like to feel alert and energetic all the time. And the best way to do this is to drink plenty of water, be physically active each day, get a good night’s rest, and make sure I’m getting enough protein and fruits and vegetables. When I need a little extra boost, I try to turn to the natural enhancers that do my body good in other ways, too. B-vitamins: The B vitamins play an important role in your metabolism, which is directly responsible for your energy levels. B-vitamins can increase your sense of well-being, they can fend off fatigue, and they can help you feel calm and alert. This is the first supplement I take if I know I’m facing a stressful day. A good B-vitamin complex will have 50 micrograms (mcg) of B12, 400 mcg of folic acid, and 50 milligrams of all the other B vitamins. Take the complex with food, otherwise it may make your stomach upset. Ginseng: The ginseng root has been used in Asia for more than two millennia to enhance energy, support the immune system, and improve concentration. Ginseng is a mild stimulant, so it is not a supplement that you should take every day. But when you need a little extra edge, it’s a great supplement to turn to. Take up to 650 mg for the best effect. If you take prescription medications, consult with your doctor before taking ginseng. Amino-Acids: These crucial compounds help your body to make neurotransmitters, hormones, proteins, and enzymes. They are also necessary for the daily repairs your body makes to keep you healthy. If you need extra energy and stamina, try taking an amino acid complex a half hour before or after you eat. By turning to healthful, natural supplements you can get good energy-boosting effects without loading up on calories or high fructose corn syrup. If you need a little extra push past what these supplements give you, try a cup of good, old-fashioned coffee ( some recent studies have indicated it to be very healthy in moderation). Regardless please remember that during exercise and during very hot days, it is important you drink plenty of water and if needed a small can of a quality energy beverage can do more good than harm!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
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