What's the real deal on Energy Drinks?
I receive a ton of questions about all of these new "energy" drinks that have hit the market over the last few years. They seem to be all the rage, especially with the youth, and they promise you the world with outrageous claims of all of the super energy that you are going to have, and how you'll be crushing the competition in your sport, and so on.
So a couple questions arise:
Are these "energy" drinks really any good for you?
Do they actually increase your energy?
Do they really have some sort of magical energy formula?
Will they help you lose weight?
First of all, let's look at what most of these energy drinks are usually made of. Most of them are simply carbonated water loaded with gut-fattening high fructose corn syrup, caffeine, the amino acid taurine, and a few random B-vitamins thrown in for show to trick you into thinking there's something healthy about these concoctions.
Let's start with the high fructose corn syrup. Well, here we've got empty calories that will go straight to your belly fat, and that are actually even WORSE for you than plain old refined sugar.
Ok, so you say that they have low-sugar or sugar-free varieties as an alternative to the HFCS-laden energy drinks. Yes, but now you have the problem of the harmful chemicals in the artificial sweeteners.
Another problem with artificial sweeteners is that there are some researchers that believe artificial sweetener use leads people to inadvertently consume more calories and gain more weight in the long run. I won't go into the details on that because that would fill up an entire discussion by itself. Just trust me that artificial sweeteners and artificial chemicals in food in general, are all bad news for your body!
What about the caffeine? Well, first of all, caffeine in itself doesn't provide "energy". Technically, the only substances that actually provide energy are calories (from carbs, protein, and fat).
However, caffeine can be an aid for livening or waking some people up, by means of stimulating the central nervous system. Keep in mind though, if you're a regular coffee drinker, you're probably addicted to caffeine and probably wouldn't receive too much benefit from the caffeine in an energy drink anyway.
Besides, instead of caffeine added to some carbonated drink, I'd rather get my caffeine from a natural source like green, white, or oolong teas, which actually provide healthful antioxidants too!
Now what about that so called magical blend of taurine and B-vitamins that they load into these energy drinks? Well, big deal...you can get taurine in almost any protein source. And the vast majority of those B-vitamins are simply coming right out into the toilet in your pee. Vitamins are best obtained naturally, or if you have low vitamin counts then with a proper product that designed to deliver you vitamins, like our Vitamin Patches not artificially added to some carbonated drink. Your body just doesn't use fake sources of vitamins as readily as natural sources from real food.
So as you can see, in my opinion, I give all of these energy drinks a big time THUMBS DOWN! You're better off mixing up your own homemade energy drink with some iced unsweetened green, white, and oolong teas, a little bit of 100% pure berry or pomegranate juice, and maybe a touch of a non-denatured whey protein.
Well, I hope this article cleared up some of the confusion about these energy drinks that are being so heavily marketed these days, and will help you make more informed decisions for your health.
Shane Griffin CNP, ROHP