By Dr. Joseph Mercola
with Rachael Droege
For sure you have seen them–those shiny silver or brightly colored cans promising to bring you instant energy–and maybe you have tried them or even drink them regularly. Energy drinks have been popping up all over supermarket and convenient store shelves in recent years, and according to a New York Times article, they have overtaken bottled water as the fastest-growing category in the beverage business.
So the burning question appears: Do energy drinks really give you energy?
Well, when you break down the contents of one of those eight-ounce cans, the primary ingredients are caffeine and sugar in the form of glucuronolactone, sucrose and glucose. So the answer is yes, energy drinks will provide a burst of energy. However, this is not a lasting effect. Further, the effects of the drink will be similar to that of drinking a cup of coffee or a can of soda in that when the effect wears off, you’ll feel yourself slowing down and will likely crave another can (or cup) to boost your energy once again. As many likely know, it can be a vicious cycle.
Nutritionally speaking, energy drinks are comparable to carbonated beverages like soda in that they offer little to the body. Yes, there are traces of various herbs and minerals in energy drinks and many contain the amino acid taurine, but this cannot make up for the caffeine and sugar. Many energy drinks also contain guarana, or extract from its seeds, which is a berry that has a stimulant effect similar to caffeine.
Performance wise, on one popular energy drink Web site the drink is claimed to increase:
- Reaction speed
- Emotional status
It does not give any support to these claims, although caffeine can certainly increase reaction speed and so on in the short term. However, what the site does not mention is that no one really knows how the combination of ingredients in energy drinks will affect the human body. This is especially concerning since energy drinks are marketed toward people under 30 years old and are especially popular among students and night clubbers who drink several cans or more at a time.
Mixing energy drinks with alcohol, which is combining a stimulant with a depressant, has become an increasingly popular occurrence at bars. The combined effect of these substances is not known, but researchers say overloading the body with heavy stimulants and heavy depressants could lead to heart failure.
Pregnant women, lactating women and children, as well as people who know they are sensitive to caffeine or have excessive anxiety, should definitely avoid energy drinks.
But perhaps the real question shouldn’t be whether or not energy drinks give you energy, or even whether or not they’re safe. Perhaps the real question should be, why do we have so little energy that we are seeking out these drinks in the first place?
There is no single reason why, but humans are not naturally sluggish or constantly tired. This lethargic state is something that many of us have brought on ourselves, and it is due to a combination of factors with the main ones as follows:
- Poor dietary choices
- Low food quality
- Stressful lifestyles
- Negative emotions
- Lack of sleep
- Ironically, lack of exercise
If you want to increase your energy for the long run, not to mention optimize your health and prevent disease, there is no quick-fix solution, and I suspect most people know this inherently. There are, however, steps you can take that will truly give you more energy. These include:
- Increase your intake of omega-3 fats
- Optimize your diet for your nutritional type
- Eliminate grains and sugars from your diet
For more details, my new book, Dr. Mercola’s Total Health Program, is THE tool that will really help you regain your energy, once and for all. You can also check out my nutrition plan to get started in the meantime.
The bottom line? Energy drinks are not a practical or healthy option. If you must have caffeine it seems that a cup of tea or black, organic coffee is a better option, though the best option if you are interested in increasing your health would be to drink pure water and follow the nutrition guidelines I mentioned above. Doing so will increase your energy naturally, and your need for energy drinks will soon become a thing of the past.