There sure are a good deal of energy drinks out there nowadays. I went to the store lately and relied on 17 different energy drinks. And this is most likely only of fraction of the entire number of energy drinks on the market today.
And just the sound of the names of those energy drinks is enough to wake up the most lethargic person: Venom, Amp, Red Bull, Full Throttle, Rush, Shark, Piranha, Fuse, Hype, Rear Mamba, and Atomic X, just to name a few.
There also appears to be lots of controversy these days about the health effects of energy drinks.
So, out of curiosity I recently did a bit of research on the ingredients within these energy drinks and their health effects.
The ingredients contained in the different brands of energy drinks are many. The ingredients common to most energy drinks are taurine, glucuronolactone, inositol, B vitamins, caffeine, sugar, carbonated water, natural flavors, and natural ingredients.
Taurine is a derivative of this sulfer-containing amino acid cysteine. Taurine is often found in baby milk formulas. Taurine helps carry minerals such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium throughout the cells. This helps generate nerve impulses. Additionally it is an antioxidant and is considered to steady irregular heartbeats.
Glucuronolactone is a naturally occurring carbohydrate produced by the human metabolic system. It’s thought to improve memory and concentration. It can have stimulant and anti-depressant effects.
Inositol is instrumental in how the brain uses serotonin, a chemical that’s the exact same that is fostered by the anti-depressant drugs prozac and zoloft.
B vitamins are essential for an assortment of things. Vitamin B-3 (niacin) metabolizes energy from carbohydrates and fat and will help the body utilize energy by releasing it from food. Vitamin B-5 (pantothenic acid) enhances mood and boosts energy. Vitamin B-6 will help in the formation of red blood cells, which provides better oxygen use. Vitamin B-12 also assists in the formation of red blood cells and helps break down sugar stored in the body to use as energy.
Natural ingredients found in energy drinks include ginseng extract, L-carnitine, guarana extract, milk thistle extract, green tea extract, ginkgo biloba leaf extract, L-trosine, fruit juices, and citric acid. The amount of these natural ingredients varies among energy drinks, and is typically a proprietary blend.
An individual could do a Ph.D. dissertation on the components in energy drinks. Because of time constraints, this report focuses on the ingredients which get the most attention regarding health effects: sugar and caffeine.
Caffeine is a stimulate. The chemical name for caffeine is 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine. Caffeine is found in many products (coffee, soda, chocolate, etc.) including energy drinks.
Caffeine does not provide true energy. It injects adrenaline into your system, which provides you a temporary boost but leads to a feeling of fatigue after it wears off.
Cortisol is good when needed, but may have harmful effects if high stress is continually present. Some of the damaging effects include a suppressed immune system, impaired cognitive performance, higher blood pressure, and a decrease in bone density and muscle tissue. Increased levels of cortisol contribute to stronger cravings for fat and carbohydrates.
Caffeine also increases the body’s level of dopamine, which acts similar to an amphetamine. Much like adrenaline, it makes you feel great after it gets into your system. However, like adrenaline, after dopamine wears off, feelings of having low energy and even mild depression take over.
As is well known, caffeine inhibits the adsorption of adenosine, which is necessary for sleep.
Caffeine does have some benefits. A small amount at the start of the day can supply you with good concentration and attention. A small amount before exercise can actually improve physical performance and endurance. It can help the body break down fat approximately 30% more efficiently if taken prior to exercise.
The typical energy drink contains approximately 80 milligrams of caffeine per 8.4 ounce. The average cup of black coffee also contains 80 milligrams of caffeine.
When sucrose is taken into the body, it’s broken down into equal amounts of glucose and fructose.
Glucose is the sugar that the body uses for both physical and psychological energy. Insulin from the pancreas allows the body to burn glucose to make energy.
If there is too much glucose in the bloodstream for the body to use as energy, it’s converted to glycogen and put in temporary storage. When the temporary storage capacity is exceeded, the rest of the glucose will be converted to long term storage (fat).
Fructose is broken down by the body SLOWLY to glycogen, which can be put into storage in the liver and muscles. When glucose levels get low in the blood, the liver can readily convert the stored glycogen into glucose. Insulin is then required to burn the sugar. The requirement for insulin when it’s required to burn glucose is reasonable.
Conversely, a big dose of sucrose supplied by candy, soda pop, or cake, puts a significant strain on the pancreas, particularly on an empty stomach. The pancreas has to supply a lot of insulin FAST to stabilize the blood sugar level brought on by the candy or cake.
If the pancreas does not offer enough insulin to manage a massive influx of sucrose, a parasitic condition exists. If the pancreas provides too much insulin, a hypoglycemic conditions exists. Blood sugar levels either too high or too low can result in serious problems.
Fructose acquired by fruit is beneficial for diabetics because it doesn’t place a huge demand on the pancreas for insulin in a small amount of time. The pancreas can take care of the insulin requirements imposed by fructose being converted SLOWLY into glycogen subsequently sugar.
But, fructose does have a down side to it.
Excess fructose that maynot be utilized by the body is readily converted into fat. Many experts believe that fructose is the main cause of Americans getting fatter. Fructose in concentrated types (e.g. high fructose corn syrup) is particularly bad. Excess fructose may also increase the level of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol).
How About These Energy Drinks?
Energy drinks have really created quite a stir, especially regarding health effects. Even a few countries (Denmark, Malaysia, and France) have banned the sale of Red Bull due to high caffeine levels. I wonder what the caffeine content is in the coffee sold in these countries.
So far as generating energy, energy drinks do provide at least some energy since they have sugar and other energy producing ingredients. The “kick ” for which these beverages are famous comes not from the energy, but from the big doses of caffeine provided by consuming not one, but multiple energy drinks in a brief time period. You would find the same kick drinking 4 or 5 cups of coffee.
Too much caffeine and too much sugar consumed day after day during a long time period will increase the likelihood of some bad health effects. Common sense.
Too much caffeine increases the probability of addiction, which will cause the stress hormone cortisol to be always within your body. Too much cortisol contributes to increased chances for a suppressed immune system, higher blood pressure, and less bone mass.
Too much refined sugar day after day and year after year will put a large strain on your pancreas, which could increases your odds of getting diabetes. Your chances of getting fat will also be much greater.
I do not believe energy drinks are harmful unless you just plain drink too many of them. I would suggest using them sparingly.
I’m also concerned about good health. It seems the older I get, the more I care about good health.
Therefore, I am a little more selective these days in regards to energy drinks. I now search for energy drinks that have minimum refined sugar. I look for one that tastes good and provides real long-lasting energy, the kind of energy that helps me concentrate and stay focused. I really don’t want a “kick” supplied by stimulants.
I have found an energy drink specifically that meets the above criteria. It’s made from all natural ingredients, one of which is the acai berry. Additionally, it contains other antioxidant-rich fruits, which also provide the sugar. This energy drink can also be lightly carbonated.