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Energy Drinks and health

Energy Drinks – Dangerous or Not?

Everything seems to be a blur these days that hardly anyone has enough time for anything. There are just so many things to be done that you don’t even have the time to rest, let alone sit down and eat a decent nutritious healthy meal. The combination of living a fast paced lifestyle, coupled with eating a less than ideal fast food diet has brought us another miracle of science, your everyday energy drink.

Science always seems to have an answer for everything, if you needed money fast there’s your ATM machine and if you’re searching for that extra needed boost you can always take a quick gulp out of that miracle liquid called an energy drink.

If you’re going to ask the question “are energy drinks for real?” then the simple answer is yes. Just take a look at your favorite sports team and you’re bound to see an energy drink sponsor out there. Gatorade, Redbull and Lipovitan are just some of the most sought after energy drinks that are available in almost every corner of the world today.

The popularity of energy drinks can be confirmed by the billions of dollars spent on them . Energy drinks are consumed by almost everybody of any age and size. Whether you’re a 20 year old man running the Boston marathon or a 65 year old senior citizen off to the park for a brisk walk, an energy drink will give your body the calories necessary to give you that boost.

What goes into an energy drink?

Energy drinks may come with different names but a simple look into their ingredients reveal that most of these come with the same ingredients. Sometimes the difference between buying certain energy drinks all boils down to the packaging and advertising. Two of the most common ingredients found in energy drinks are caffeine and carbohydrates. Caffeine stimulates you and the carbohydrates gives your body the fuel to keep going.

Caffeine ?

Yes that’s right, the same ingredient you find in your coffee could be found in your everyday energy drink. We all know that drinking coffee is a great way of keeping up at night so if you have plans of getting a goodnight’s rest after a day at the gym keep your energy drink consumption to a minimum.

Caffeine is a chemical that heightens the body’s senses and stimulates brain functioning. The effects of caffeine usually last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. The amount of energy drink needed to keep a person energized depends largely on how big the person is or how often he takes the liquid. Just like most drugs, a tolerance builds up the more you use the energy drink.

Dangers of high Caffeine intake

Caffeine is a popular drug used in many liquid beverages including coffee, tea, carbonated drinks and energy drinks. It can also be found in chocolate products and prescription drugs. Caffeine is not dangerous in itself it is when they are taken in dangerous amounts that health problems occur.

Most people don’t know that caffeine is a diuretic. What this means is that high levels of caffeine can cause people to urinate more often that increases the risk for dehydration. Massive perspiration during strenuous activities like sports coupled with its diuretics can leave the body dangerously low on water. Caffeine is also highly addictive. This means people used to taking in caffeinated products may require more amounts to achieve the same results as before.

  • Increases blood pressure and can cause irregular heartbeats
  • Affects mental and social well-being
  • Disrupts sleeping patterns
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Decreases hydration levels in the body

Carbohydrates

Energy drinks contain high levels of sugar. Sugar can be a source of carbohydrates to the body.  However, too much sugar intake can also have a negative effect on the body, does diabetes ring a bell? It is wrong to assume that taking large amounts of energy drinks can lead to diabetes but this can cause some of the symptoms seen in the medical condition.

Making an energy drink is a delicate balancing act. Medical studies show that around 20 to 25 grams of sugar in an 8 oz drink is the ideal amount for each energy drink. Higher levels of sugar in the bloodstream make the blood more viscous making the heart blood work a little bit more.

Temporarily increasing sugar levels can be great for giving athletes that extra source of fuel during competitions but can also leave them more exhausted after the activity. Because the body is unable to naturally provide the energy needed, once the effects of the energy drinks are lost it takes longer for the body to recuperate and exhaustion sets in.

Fact or Hype

There is no question that energy drinks are truly effective in giving athletes that much needed boost just when they need it. But effectiveness and safety are two things that should never be confused with each other. Just like anything, too much of a good thing is bad and this also holds true for your favorite sports drinks.

Nothing beats eating a healthy diet and proper exercise in getting your body to its best physical condition. The problem with today’s society is that everybody wants to get the best results in the fastest possible time that they often take shortcuts just to get there. Energy drinks can get you from Point A to Point B fast but when people get too dependent on them they forget that these can sometimes leave them in an even worse condition than when they started.

Written by Ronald Uy, RN

© 2010  H.I.C. Digestive Health

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