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Are Energy Drinks Helpful or Just a Sugar Rush?

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By Brandi Goodman

Are Energy Drinks Helpful or Just a Sugar Rush?

The energy drink market has grown exponentially over the years, with even more growth expected in the coming decade. They’re available everywhere, and people of all ages tend to utilize them. Though it may seem convenient to grab an energy drink from the gas station on your way to work or school and allow its effects to wake you up, most options are full of sugar and unnecessary calories. If you plan on grabbing one, you’ll need to know more about the best and worst options for you.

What Are Energy Drinks and What Do They Contain?

Energy drinks are beverages intended to give you an energy boost and increase your alertness, attention, and athletic performance. They usually contain ingredients that act as stimulants, such as guarana, L-carnitine, and taurine. Many also contain added sugar and electrolytes that are not ideal for your overall health, especially the more you consume them over time. This $86 billion industry is only expected to expand, keeping the choices on grocery store shelves to continue tempting you.

How Long Does the Energy Last?

Caffeine energy from drinks like these are not a sustained energy source. Your body does not experience energy production like it does from nutritious foods and water. Instead, the caffeine in energy drinks blocks certain receptors in the brain to help you feel awake. Your wakefulness will only last a few hours at most. You’re more likely to perk up for a while and then crash hard once the effects have worn off.

Regulatory Guidelines Regarding Energy Drink Consumption

Currently, there are not any regulatory guidelines in America regarding energy drink consumption. Soda may not have more than 71 milligrams of caffeine in it, yet energy drinks have upwards of 100 milligrams of caffeine without any repercussions. This is because manufacturers get around this rule by labeling their drinks as supplements. Fortunately, some brands have included an 18+ label to help steer children away from drinking it. However, more and more people are calling for the FDA to regulate energy drinks as other countries do. Plus, there has been a call to stop liquor manufacturers from mixing caffeine into their alcohol, which resulted in several deaths in the past.

Potential Benefits of Energy Drinks

Some energy drinks contain vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for proper brain function. An energy nutrition drink such as V8+Energy provides Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, and thiamin. Even Monster’s latte versions offer these as well as calcium. However, the biggest benefit people are often after is the energy support that these drinks provide.

Risks or Side Effects Associated With Energy Drink Consumption

Overconsumption of energy drinks has been linked to heart health effects, including enhanced blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, and cardiac arrest. Those are some serious risks.

Though an occasional drink is fine, these types of beverages should not be consumed regularly. Over time, the steady increase in blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms can have serious consequences.

How Do Energy Drinks Impact Hydration and Fluid Balance?

You cannot stay hydrated well with an energy drink in your system. This is particularly true on hot days when you tend to lose water quickly through sweating. The high intensity of the caffeine content in energy drinks can lead to diuresis, which increases your potential for dehydration. You should use water to rehydrate on a hot day or during periods of physical activity, not energy drinks or other caffeine products.

Long-Term Health Implications of Regular Consumption Among Adolescents

A significant problem with energy drinks is how they are marketed toward younger generations. No one under the age of 18 should be consuming caffeine-fueled beverages. Yet social media influencers are creating their own drinks, and commercials for popular types catch teenagers’ eyes easily. Because teens are less likely to be health conscious, they may not correlate symptoms that arise from these drinks nor avoid drinking them to stop them from occurring. For example, an adult may realize that their energy drink can keep them awake at night and make the decision to never drink one past 2 p.m. A teenager may not have the same worry or thought process and may experience insomnia because they drank an energy drink too late in the day.

Adolescents who consume energy drinks regularly are likely to experience side effects such as stomach pain, headaches, nausea, and anxiety. They also put themselves at an increased risk for long-term health problems, including heart issues and diabetes.

Worst Energy Drinks to Purchase

When you find yourself at the gas station or convenience store looking for an energy drink, be sure to avoid the worst choices. Monster, for example, tends to have 160 milligrams of caffeine. That’s roughly the equivalent to two cups of coffee. It is also high in sugar and calories, which should cause you to think twice before choosing it. Some brands have even higher numbers. Overall, you should avoid Full Throttle, Red Bull, Rockstar, Prime, Bang, NOS, and 5-Hour Energy.

Are There Supplements That Can Replace Energy Drinks?

Because people often use energy drinks for energy and mental alertness, it can be difficult to stop using them. However, taking a supplement may be a better solution. Guarana is one option. Many energy drinks use this plant anyway, so taking it alone in a singular supplement can help gain the benefits you’re looking for without the extra sugar and calories that the beverages include. It should not be taken daily, however, as the high caffeine content is still not recommended or safe for regular use. It should be used on an as-needed basis.

Are There Healthy Energy Drinks Available?

There are healthier versions of energy drinks that help lessen some of the negative effects. Start by looking for one that’s sugar-free. That will help cut out the sugar and a significant portion of the calories. An option with a lower caffeine content is also ideal. The less caffeine you have to rely on, the better. Consider brands such as Alani Nu that are naturally flavored, low in sugar, and low in calories.

Healthy Alternatives

To cut out energy drinks completely, opt for some healthy alternatives. If the goal is mental clarity and enhanced energy levels, water is always your best solution. Keeping your body and mind well-hydrated with good old H20 is the only way to see long-lasting benefits. Tea is also a safer choice. Many teas include caffeine that can give you the energy you need to get through your day, yet they have less of it than coffee and energy drinks. It is also released more slowly.

Skip the Energy Drinks and See a Chiropractor

Your partners in health at The Joint Chiropractic encourage you to pursue the best solution, which is to skip the energy drinks and focus on improving your well-being with healthy choices. With a diet of nutritious foods and water, plenty of sleep, exercise, and routine chiropractic care, you won’t need caffeine for mental clarity and alertness.

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