How do we get energy from “energy drinks”?

When my husband Bill walks our dog, Ollie, he often brings home litter that he finds on his path (Bill, not the dog. Ollie is smart but would just pee on the can.) One day he showed up with an empty can from an NOS energy drink. Bill has been brow beaten into reading labels and pointed out that the 16-ounce can was marked as 2 servings. Most people drink the whole can and therefore consume all 53 grams of sugar. That is about 13 teaspoons of sugar. That got me to thinking about energy drinks in general but, let me finish up with this good example of something I don’t think anyone should drink.

The sugar in the can is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and that is the second ingredient after water. Not only does our blood sugar system react badly to HFCS, it is also a source of toxic mercury. The yellow dye in the product provides aluminum that we sure don’t need. NOS contains sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda), 2 preservatives and a bunch of other chemicals that are hard on our friendly bacteria. Its 2 sources of caffeine total 160 mg—3 times as much as a Coke. There is an amino acid and a smidgeon of vitamin B6 and B12.

Most other energy drinks are similar. 5-hour energy has more vitamins and amino acids, but also sucralose (again not good for our bacteria friends) and less water. Water itself makes you feel more energetic. All the energy drinks that I’ve checked depend mostly on caffeine for a boost. The highest amount I’ve found is Redline with 316 mg in 8 ounces—a little more than 2 shots of Starbucks’ espresso. (Here is a caffeine chart for your reference.)

Caffeine doesn’t create energy. It more or less whips the adrenal glands into releasing adrenaline. Our body will have to counteract that stress effect at some point and use its other resources to replace the adrenaline. Over time we may risk adrenal exhaustion. Caffeine might produce a burst of pizazz that could save your life driving across West Texas and may improve mental function for a test. However, it is not a sustainable model. Mayo Clinic lists some of the problems with drinking more caffeine than your body can properly metabolize: “Migraine headache, Insomnia, Nervousness, Irritability, Restlessness, Frequent urination or inability to control urination, Stomach upset, Fast heartbeat and Muscle tremors.”

Researchers associated with the World Health Organization have come out against energy drinks as a class. Here is a good discussion about the drinks…and another (the source of most of the photo).

I am one of those people who do much better with tea. It provides a smaller amount of caffeine and in a more timed-release fashion. Better yet, the caffeine effect is naturally balanced with the stress-relieving amino acid, theanine which may lower blood pressure. The energy is smooth and longer lasting. My favorite brand of tea is the pure, flavorful, convenient instant crystals of Pique Tea. They have blends with and without caffeine.



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