Energy is defined as the capacity of a physical system to do work or perform a vigorous activity. Energy for the human body is typically obtained through consuming the proper and necessary foods, hydration and sleep. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy, while proteins and fats provide certain needed functions as well. Water helps remove toxins from the body while sleep allows our body to recover and heal.
In society's "quicker, faster, easier" mentality, however, a popular fad has developed for apparently gaining energy, losing weight and burning fat. Many people have turned to products such as Red Bull, or other enhanced drinks or products to seemingly increase their levels of energy and lose weight. This raises a couple of questions, such as: Do these drinks and products accomplish what their claims advertise, and are they safe and healthy alternatives for proper nutrition?
Energy drinks and pills such as Red Bull, Jolt, Monster and Yellow Swap are typically marketed to younger people, college students, athletes or people who use them to simply get through the day. However, research findings have determined that this is certainly not a recommended energy boost technique.
One of the major problems with energy drinks and pills is that people dont know what they are consuming. Many times the actual ingredients do not correspond with the listed ingredients on the can. Some drinks/pills contain ingredients that are omitted, while others do not always contain what they claim. Most of these ingredients, such as creatine, are added in such small amounts that the benefits advertised will be minimal to none. This can cause adverse reactions and individuals need to be cautious.
Another problem with energy drinks and pills is that they typically contain the same amount, if not more, caffeine than a cup of coffee. This is equal to about 80mg of caffeine (they can go up to 300mg), which is more than double the amount in a twelve ounce Mountain Dew, which contains 37mg, and more than three times the amount in a 12 oz. Coca Cola, containing 23mg. Some individuals will consume several energy drinks or pills a day. This is equivalent to a twelve pack of soda, not to mention all the stimulants and sugar added in! If you are taking a pill, theres no sugar, but the caffeine/stimulant mixture usually equals up to 300mg!
Although small doses of caffeine have been proven effective for exercise lasting one minute to two hours, large doses present in energy drinks and pills will produce counter laxative and diuretic effects that may hinder rather than help performance.
Other stimulants in the energy drinks/pills can have several harmful effects as well. They can raise heart rate and blood pressure, cause dehydration and prevent quality sleep. Many times stimulants are not listed or they are grouped together without specific names. This omission has created problems for collegiate athletes because these substances are not guaranteed for approval by the NCAA. In some recent cases, energy drinks/pills have been responsible for athletes identified as positive after being drug tested.
These stimulants combined with the high doses of caffeine and sugar are certainly not healthy alternatives to sports drinks, such as Gatorade. Many consumers purchase the sugar free brands of energy drinks with thoughts of a healthier choice. However, the effects of the stimulants and caffeine will still be evident even with the sugar free energy drinks/pills. Although individual responses to caffeine will vary, all aspects of ingesting energy products should be carefully considered.
A fourth problem with using energy drinks or pills happens while combining them with exercise, and can be dangerous. The fluid loss from sweating during a workout in addition to unpredictable side effects can increase the possibility of injuries and inconsistent performances. Its for this reason that energy drinks should not be used as a supplement to Gatorade or other sports drinks, which are designed to replenish electrolytes, water, and other nutrients that the body loses during exercise. These nutrients are usually isotonic, which means they are proportionate to the amounts found in the human body. Energy drinks contain high levels of sugar and or caffeine and are not relevant to the amount of nutrients in the body.
The Results Are In
If you are looking for an extra boost to finish the day on a strong note, lose weight, burn fat or to improve competition results, the healthiest and best research based approach is through proper nutrition. Through a proper balance of carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats, along with proper hydration through water or sports drinks, an individual is much more likely to improve his or her energy levels. Also, dont forget the importance of sleep. The combination of all the above will certainly help people stay alert and energized and will give both athletes and non-athletes a competitive edge.
In other words, put down the Red Bull or Fat Burners and pick up more fruits, vegetables, proper hydrating sources and plan more quick naps. Your body wants them and needs them, so start giving in to your body and feel better about it, too!